Maegan Meridian looked at her father, Aelius, stoically making his way through New York City traffic. The car was silent but for the engine noise and the barely-audible prayer of their passenger. Maegan turned slightly in her seat to observe Fionn Clanless, the boy she called brother, praying his rosary. Silky strands of long, towhead blonde hair obscured his handsome face and contrasted starkly with his black Goth-style clothing, a bit more conservative than what he usually had on.
Maegan watched his fingers slide over the beads, counting with him, knowing the prayers almost as well as Fionn. She was Anglican, after all, she didn’t use that type of rosary. The car turned the last corner as the walls of Metropolitan Correctional Center came into view, drab brown and imposing. Maegan couldn’t help but think of Barad-Dur, the tower of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings, especially as she considered the evil held within it. The car came to a stop.
“Fionn.” she said quietly. He looked up. “We’re here.”
Fionn sighed and set his beads aside. He emptied his pockets of his cell phone and anything else he thought might be a problem.
“Are you ready?”
“No.” he said, his voice held a bit of an Irish burr.
“We’ll be right here waiting when you come out.” she assured him.
Fionn nodded. As he exited the car, Maegan rolled down her window and grabbed his hand. “We’re right here.”
Not much good it would do inside that place.
Fionn Clanless thought about the errand that brought him to this place. His father, Oran Clanless had requested to see him. He was here on charges of racketeering, money laundering, drug smuggling… and murder. He had been the head of an Irish mob family before he was put away here, a family he expected Fionn to take over. Fionn refused, and for that he was punished. His body and spirit broken, and his mother murdered. He truly was Clanless now, if not for the Meridians and the Strandsburys. He smiled thinking of his girlfriend Seraphina Strandsbury, and her brother Fred, orphans like himself. He was carrying one of Seraphina’s handkerchiefs against his heart, folded between the wrap-around top and tank he was wearing.
In the seven years that had passed since the day he refused his father’s demands, he had grown strong in body and mind, taking up martial arts and getting counseling from his priest. His classmates in his martial arts school all supported him as well; though, they did love to make jokes about his hair, calling him “Legolas'' and “Witcher”. It was all in good fun, his classmates cheered him on at his last tournament by singing “Toss a Coin to your Witcher” from the sidelines. Fionn had never seen the show, it was far too… well, much for him, but he appreciated the spirit of his friends.
Fionn passed the door and metal detector. His heart pounded like it was trying to escape from his ribs, his hands started shaking. He approached the officer on duty.
“Fionn Clanless to see Oran Clanless.”
The guard nodded and gestured for Fionn to follow him. He was taken to a room to be searched, answering every question with a polite “Yes, sir.” or “No, sir.”
He opened his shirt and surrendered the handkerchief. “Belong to someone special?” asked the officer.
“Yes, my girlfriend.”
He smiled. It was rare to see such an old fashioned gentleman. Then he noticed the leather cross and an image of St. Michael the Archangel sewn inside the wide hem of his shirt. After checking to see if there was anything behind them he asked. “If I may, where did you get the tags?”
“A friend makes them. I’ll get you a business card, if you would like.”
“I would, thank you, Mr. Clanless.”
Fionn opened his wallet and handed the officer the card. Then he followed the officer to the visiting area. It was empty, except for the guards. For that Fionn was thankful. He heard the clang of metal doors beyond the plexiglass partition and saw two guards leading his father, Oran Clanless to the booth. He was shackled hand and foot. He hadn’t changed a bit in the seven years since the trial that had placed him here. He, like Fionn was of a thin build, his cheekbones sticking out razor-like from his face. He tried to give Fionn a friendly smile, he came across more like a wolf.
Oran sat down and picked up the telephone. Fionn sat down in the chair on his side of the partition and picked up the phone on his end.
They stared at each other for a moment. Oran’s keen eye noted Fionn’s muscular frame and long hair. The boy had always favored long hair.
“It’s been seven years, Father.” Fionn’s voice was quiet. “Of course I’ve changed.”
“Fair enough. And your… hair. It’s grown quite long. Just like the heroes in those books you used to like to read.”
“The men in books were better than the ones I was surrounded with.” Fionn raised his head. “I told you I didn’t want to see you again.”
“And yet, here you are.”
“I told you I hated you.”
Fionn leaned closer. “We are not men to mix words, Father. Why did you call me here?”
“Why did you come?” Oran asked.
Fionn took a deep breath. “Closure. I no longer hate you, Father. I’ve been speaking with my priest.”
Oran nodded. Religion was useful to a point. “And what about the others? The rest of your family?”
“I have forgiven them. But I will not go back.”
“Fionn, they’re your family, your blood.” Oran insisted. “And they need someone to lead them-”
“I told you when I was eighteen I didn’t want to be in charge of the Family, and I haven’t changed my mind about that.”
“You’re my son!” Oran barked.
“You killed my mother!” Fionn sat back away from the window, all the old feelings of anger and grief and hopelessness welled up in his chest. “You had her shot and left her to die outside a church.”
Oran sat expressionless watching as Fionn fought back tears. “It was necessary.”
“Necessary?” Fionn rasped. “It was necessary to kill your wife, the mother of your child? What purpose did it serve, you were already going to prison for life.”
Oran leaned close to the glass. “I loved your mother. I loved you.”
“You had an odd way of showing it, letting my cousins torment me and screaming at Mother.”
“It was to make you strong, you were never going to survive if you just sat there and kept to your books.”
“Look at me, Father. You were wrong.”
Oran was not a man used to being told “no” or “you’re wrong.” His body language shifted, now it was more hostile. This was something Fionn recognised. The man behind the glass drew himself up, trying to intimidate, a sure sign he was trying to justify whatever he was going to say. “I loved your mother, you don’t know how difficult it was to order her death.”
“You don’t know what love means.” Fionn looked at his father. “You sound so cold. Like she was never real.”
“Five minutes.” said a guard.
Oran nodded. Fionn felt relief; this would end soon.
“I’m dying, Fionn.” Oran said matter-of-factly. Fionn looked up sharply. “Brain tumor. There’s nothing that can be done.”
“So that’s it.” Fionn sighed. “What do you want from me? Absolution? Only God can do that. Pity? You’ve had that for years.”
“To make sure you took your proper place. Someone has to take charge of the family or it will die.”
“Let it die, then, I swear to you I will never go back.” Fionn turned his father’s body language back on him. Oran seemed to sense Fionn’s determination. “There is one last thing I want to say.” Oran raised an eyebrow. “I forgive you.” Fionn hung up the phone and turned to the guard. “I’m finished, sir.”
Oran stared after his son. “You forgive me?” he shouted. “You are your mother’s son! You’re no blood of mine! You’re soft and weak!”
Fionn squared his shoulders and lifted his head, his burden was gone.
Fionn returned to the car to find Aelius and Maegan waiting for him outside it. Maegan held her arms out for him, he accepted her embrace then went to the backseat of the car and got in.
“Do you want to talk about it, son?” asked Aelius.
“No. Not now.” Fionn leaned against his seat like a broken puppet.
“We’ll take you home, then.”
The car ride ended at a restored Victorian home, the boarding house Fionn called home. Aelius fed the parking meter while Maegan escorted Fionn up to the house. He came into the house and breathed in the comforting smell of his home. He looked expectantly into the parlor and saw Seraphina sitting on the sofa. She had her black hair up in little buns and wore black leggings, a baggy black top with a sprinkling of metallic purple and pink stars across it, and a choker with a silver heart pendant. Hanging lower on her neck was a silver medal of Raphael the Archangel, a gift from Fionn. She rushed over to him and hugged him tight.
“Are you okay?” she asked. He shook his head. “What did he do to you?”
“He gave me what I asked for.”
“You get cleaned up. Hey, Fred!” Seraphina called.
“Heyo!” came Fred’s breezy answer.
“Put some tea on, will you?”
“You got it!”
Fionn made his way up the stairs and to his room. Seraphina took Maegan’s hand and pulled her into the parlor.
“Mae, he’ll tell you things he won’t tell me. What happened there?”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Maegan sighed. “He was so quiet I thought he fell asleep in the car.”
Fred came out with the tea service and set it down. No pair of siblings looked more different, Fred liked to dress in an almost-garish assortment of bright colors, as opposed to Seraphina’s Goth style. “Is there anything I can do, Mae?”
“Perhaps, if you have any of those cookies he likes?”
“Mae’s right, he won’t want to eat unless we offer him something he can’t resist.”
“I’ll get the potato soup started and I’ll text Miss Lucy to bring back some crusty bread.”
“Good idea.” nodded Seraphina. She looked up hearing someone on the stairs. “Oop, quiet, here he comes.”
Fionn had changed his clothes and was now wearing something more expected for him, a black poet shirt, black canvas pants, and black leather slippers. Maegan waved him inside.
“We’ve made tea. Would you like some?”
Fionn nodded and sat down next to Seraphina and accepted a cup of tea. He swallowed the hot liquid with a sigh. It relaxed him a bit, but he still felt stressed to the max. Seraphina put a hand on his arm, distracting him from the turmoil roiling in his chest.
“Talk to us, Fionn.” she pleaded.
He looked first at Maegan, then at Seraphina. “He’s dying. That’s why he wanted to see me.”
“Oh, Fionn.” gasped Maegan.
“Don’t tell me he wanted a kidney or something.” Seraphina said, darkly.
“No, it’s a brain tumor. There’s nothing that can be done. He wanted to convince me to go back to the Family.”
“You didn’t agree, did you?”
“No, Maegan. I would never go back to them, not even if I needed a kidney myself.” Fionn took a few more strengthening sips of tea before he continued. “I told him I forgave him.”
“Good for you, Fionn!” Seraphina cheered.
“I knew you had it in you.” Maegan nodded her approval.
Fionn finished his tea and set down his cup. “He was less than gracious. He’s disowned me once and for all, I fear. I’ll likely never see him again.” Fionn took a hard grip on each arm. “For all that, he is my father. I shouldn’t want his approval anymore, not after what he did.”
“You don’t want his approval,” said Maegan. “You want his love.”
“All children want their parents to love them, that want never goes away. Not even when you’re grown.” Seraphina remarked as she swept Fionn’s hair out of the way so she could see his face. Then she placed a hand over Fionn’s, he was shaking badly. He released his arm and meshed his own and Seraphina’s fingers together, a gesture that was second nature to him.
“Why don’t I pop to the kitchen and see if I can find any cookies or something?” offered Maegan. This was simply an excuse to leave Fionn and Seraphina alone for a while.
Seraphina put her free arm around Fionn’s shoulders. He released her hand and pivoted to hug her properly.
“I’m so thankful for you and Fred and Miss Lucy taking me in,” he murmured. “I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.”
“You’re a smart guy, Fionn. You would’ve done something.”
“Something foolish.” He knew in his heart of hearts he would have tried to go after Oran for revenge. Finding the Strandsburys was the one way he stopped himself. They showed him a better way than revenge, the Law of Love his mother had taught him. “My Angel, I would have been very stupid.”
Seraphina hugged him tighter. “Yeah, that’s probably true.”
“Such confidence in me.” Fionn teased.
“You then? No, zero confidence. You now? Every confidence.”
Fionn bent down to kiss her forehead, but froze.
“Oh, dear,” came Maegan’s voice. “I think I’ve come at a bad time.”
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