A small Victorian cottage sat on the shores of New Hampshire, the last one in the row, with nearly endless views of the ocean and it’s shores. Two brothers approached the house with an unending discussion about the conversation they needed to have with their father.
“You know I can’t stand talking to him.” said Andrew.
“Yes, but he’s Father, and you know how he is,” said Michael.
“Well, you’ve known him longer than I have, why don’t you tell him?” said Andrew.
The two men stopped at the top of the steps to the porch as Michael looked back at his brother.
“I’m 2 years older than you. It’s not like Dad and I go way back,” he replied. This didn’t stop Andrew from trying to argue his point.
“He’s always liked you more.” he griped.
“Hardly. You’re the youngest. You were always spoiled.” answered Michael
As Michael turned his back, Andrew grimaced. “Just knock on the door,” said Andrew.
Three firm knocks were all their father would allow. You were to stand patiently and wait. If no one answered in two minutes, you were to knock three more times and repeat the process. In most cases, the door was answered on the first try. Andrew’s desire was to wait the least amount of time possible and leave.
“Oh dear, he’s not home. Let’s go,” said Andrew
“Wait. It’s not even been the correct amount of time.” protested Michael
Rolling his eyes, Andrew stood by counting the seconds in his mind until the second knock was required. Secretly he was planning his escape if the door did not open after that. To his disappointment, the door opened, and a healthy silver-haired man stood before them in a white dress shirt and charcoal grey slacks.
“Good evening gentlemen.” said the man
“Good evening, Jeffrey, how are you?” said Michael
“Copasetic, Sir, and yourself?” The man’s voice was deep and smooth, but to Andrew so boring he nearly fell asleep upon introductions.
“Excellent! Thank you!” Michael replied cheerfully.
“What’s up, Jeff!” said Andrew
Jeffrey looked unblinkingly at Andrew and without a smile of greetings said. “Sir.”
Andrew knew this annoyed Jeffery, but he did it anyway. Andrew believed he lived in the 21st century, not the late 19th as his father did.
“Michael Senior is in the study,” Jeffrey assured the two men.
“Magnificent, Jeff, do be so kind as to take my cloak and hat while I sashay to the lavatory,” smirked Andrew.
“Not so fast brother.” retorted Michael, a hand reached out and pulled Andrew closer.
“Oh, alright. We might as well get it over with.”
The two men, with their dark hair combed to perfection, dressed in their finest suits, walked into the study. As they entered, their father looked up from his desk and took notice of the men’s clothing. Michael wore an Italian cut, navy blue single-breasted one-button lapel with matching slacks, a bright red tie, and a crisp white shirt. Andrew chose a more casual and less approved American cut, smoky grey standard notch jacket, no tie, and grey shirt, with black slacks. Disapproving his younger son’s appearance, he was nevertheless proud of their handsome features. Both had medium skin tone, perfect white teeth, and chiseled features. They had their mother’s brown eyes but their father’s handsome facial attributes. Michael had a square clean-shaven jawline with a dark beard only now giving a shadow in the evening hours, where Andrew’s face was more triangular, with at least half a week’s dark brown beard. His father was clearly annoyed by that as well. Michael’s hair was full and thick around all sides and just above the ears. Andrew kept his hair in a classic quaff, short on the sides and long on the top, and to his father’s disgust, a tattoo streaked up from his shoulder onto his neck. Michael Senior saw his sons at the summer picnic in Miami last year. Where Michael was strong and tan, Andrew was strong, tan, and covered in tattoos. Both sons were successful in their own right. Michael was engaged, and Andrew was still looking for a “Perfect Match” as he called it.
“Good evening, Father,” said Michael
“Good evening, son”
Their father’s deep baritone voice seemed to contradict his outward appearance. His figure was lean and fit. His face was a diamond shape with a medium forehead and slightly receding hairline. Dark grey hair, streaked with the occasional silver hair, trimmed over the ears with a slight wave on top. Dark intense eyebrows hung over grey steely eyes and a salt and pepper beard trimmed to a point without a hair out of place. The entire family was genetically born to be male models. Their mother was the heir to a now unheard of Baron of Austria who fell into obscurity after the second world war. It was often said in her younger years she could have been an Audrey Hepburn look alike. She was the reason for Michael and Andrews’ visit.
“Prey tell what brings you boys here this evening?” Michael Senior asked pretentiously. “I understood you were with your mother.”
“Well Father, that’s what we’re here to talk to you about,” answered Michael. “ Mother….” Michael gave a pause because he wasn’t sure how to say it.
“Mom wants to get remarried,” blurted out Andrew.
Michael looked at his brother from the corner of his eyes. “Yes, that is correct.” said Michael
Michael Senior tried not to look shocked, but the momentary pause and fake smile revealed his true emotions. It was well rehearsed, and something his sons had seen him do a hundred times in their lives. Michael Senior stood up from behind his mahogany desk and walked towards the fireplace. Warm flames crackled beneath the mantle as their father stopped in front of a portrait of their mother on the wall above. The lights in the room seemed to dim as Michael Senior focused on Annabella. He felt his heart race as he thought back on the early days of their marriage. Acid began to burn in his stomach. He turned slowly and asked. “When?”
“Next March,” said Michael.
Michael Senior hadn’t felt the same desperate loss in his heart since the day she left. As time went on, they kept in touch, and they were cordial about their meetings. Yet in his heart and mind he’d hoped somehow they’d come back together. Now, she was going to marry someone else. His sons watched him as he walked around the room as if lost. The rich colors of thick red and white carpet muffled his steps, and he walked from the fireplace to the wall lined with teak bookshelves. He strode slowly past a closet door and marble bust of Abraham Lincoln, past the french doors that lead to the study from the hallway. Ornamental columns holding cut glass framed the french doors as stained glass decorated the partition above. Back to the window and behind his desk. All this time Michael Senior didn’t say a single word. He sat down in his high back leather chair and steepled his fingers. Just as quickly he stood up and walked to the small drink bar in the corner and asked his sons if they’d like a drink.
“I’m fine Father,” said Michael
“Yeah, dad I’d love some,” said Andrew. His brother Michael turned and gave him a sour look.
Michael Senior turned and walked with two tumblers of Elija Craig, an inch of the amber liquid in the bottom of each glass, and handed one to Andrew. Andrew took a mouthful and gently swirled the oaky flavor around his mouth, then let it slide down the back of his throat. Michael Senior sipped slowly and returned to his thoughtful daze and walked to the desk.
“Father, are you alright?” asked Michael.
He looked up quickly and gave a sad smile. “I didn’t expect she’d fall in love again.” He sipped his glass once again. Andrew shot forward to say something, but Michael put his arm across his chest and held him back.
“It’s been nearly 8 years, Father,” said Michael. walking a few steps closer.
“You know WHY she left, don’t you!” Andrew belted out loudly. Both men looked at him in consternation.
“Andrew, please! This is not the time,” said Michael.
“Well, big brother, when is the time!” he shouted. “Don’t you know the truth, or do I have to spell it out for you. She’s moved on after what he did!”
Michael looked down at his hands and went to remove his coat. The room was warm, but the rapid emotions building in his body made him hot. “So you know?” said Michael.
“Well, of course I do. He cheated on Mother and she left him in shame!”
Michael looked down once again, shame in his eyes. He knew, but he didn’t know Andrew knew the truth.
“You both have it wrong,” said Michael Senior. “She did.”