Being Inspired, maybe - 80

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

It was a rather odd feeling sitting in a cafe watching the news on television and seeing a photo of my father, and the much larger image of scattered plane wreckage in the background.

The accompanying voiceover was giving a brief rundown on the victims, not only my father, but also his mother, my grandmother, and my brother, Toby, who were both making a normal flight from London to Florence in the company jet.

And it was even odder that, in that very moment when I should have been feeling very sad, I should feel somewhat annoyed that I had never been afforded a chance of getting similar passage.

But, then, there had always been two sides to this family, and after a bitter and at times acrimonious divorce between my parents, my brother had told me in no uncertain terms that I'd picked the wrong side when I chose to go and live with my mother.

It was probably true, because my mother had been my stepfather’s 3rd acquisition, as I'd heard him call her once, in a marriage that lasted 15 years, longer than any of the other 5, and the only to produce an heir.

My brother was clever in a devious sort of way and saw the advantages of going with our father.  I saw him differently, and perhaps it had been a decision that was tempered by what I had seen and heard over the last few years of their marriage.

Seeing his face up there on the screen brought back a lot of those memories in a flood, and a small 
part of me was glad he was dead and could no longer hurt us anymore.

All those platitudes the announcer was saying, that was not the man I knew, a bad-tempered, controlling and a very vindictive bastard.  If only the world knew what his five divorced wives knew, those that were still alive.

And sadly, my brother had become a clone of his father.  It was a jolt to see his picture up on the screen, after 10 years, the last time we'd spoken was a huge argument and words were said that couldn't be taken back.

The worse part, he looked like me, just a slightly older version, and over the years I'd been mistaken for him more than once, and the most memorable, by the husband of one of the women he'd picked up and tossed aside, much like his father.

My phone vibrated, the call I was expecting. 

"Are you near a television?"

My mother.  I had expected a tone with some jubilation but instead, it was one of intense sadness.  Acrimonious or not, I'd always suspected she had a soft spot for him.

"Not the sort of death you'd wish on anyone, but perhaps his past sins had caught up with him."

There was a brief silence, and what I thought might be a gasp, but I could be wrong.

Then, after a deep breath, she said, "I was supposed to be on that plane."

In that moment I felt the life run out of me, and I was glad I was sitting down, otherwise, I was not quite sure where I'd be now.  My mother was supposed to be on that plane.  Ok, not exactly what I was expecting to hear.

I had thought she might have sounded regretful but relieved.  Even after the divorce, he had made life for both us as hellish as he could.

"How?  Why?"  It was as much as I could stammer out after the initial shock.

"He said he had something important to discuss with me and given that in the last few months we had been talking again, I thought I'd give him the benefit of the doubt.  Besides who could turn down a chance to see Florence again.  It was where we first met you know."

Was that a hint of fondness in her tone?  What the hell had happened in the last few months.  I had noticed the change in her, but I thought it was because she and a man she had met some time ago were moving to a new phase in their relationship.  Perhaps, now hearing what she said, the man was my father.

But there had been another, a man I'd only met once, and I hadn't thought she would ever trust another man ever again, but Jorge had made an impact.  When I first met him, I got the impression he had been hurt as badly by a woman as my mother had been by my father.  In that sense, they were ideally suited, but she had remained somewhat reticent.

"Then you were lucky you didn't go."  It was as much as I could come up with given the shock of what she had said.

"Not lucky.  He phoned at the last minute and told me not to come, and that he would see me when he returned."

Which meant what?  That he knew that something might happen to him or the plane or what?

Then, as if she was reading my mind, she said, very quietly, "I think he knew what was going to happen."

When I arrived at my mother's apartment, there was a degree of solemnity about it, and I shivered as I crossed the threshold, as if the ghosts had come out to play.

She answered the door dressed in black, no doubt having changed right after she heard the news.
Something about that had bothered me on the way over, how was she looking at the news at that hour of the morning when she never looked at the television except at night when I came over with a rented movie.

But it wasn't the first question I was going to ask. 

"How are you?"  I asked after a hug. 

She was trembling, and I could see tears had been shed.  I was surprised at the level of feeling she still had for him.  I guess there must have been some good years on their marriage I'd missed.

"I'll be fine."

"Do you want me to call Priscilla?"  Priscilla was her companion, a woman about 10 years younger, but seemed far more worldly than my mother, not so much in travels, but in human relations.

"Not right now.  I think I'd prefer silence and time for reflection."

I walked into the lounge with her and sat on one of the two leather chairs she had battled my father for custody of.  It was as much as he would give her, other than an annual allowance that would barely feed Chuckles, her cat.

The cat wandered in when she sat and jumped up to sit on her lap.

"Dumb question," I saw, "But how come you were watching tv this morning when you rarely look at it at all?"

Ok, so I waited at least five minutes.  It was one of her traits, one that infuriated my father and in that she always took her time to answer, no doubt considering the reply and its consequences.

"Ben called, said there would be an item of interest on the morning news.  Something about one of your father's investments, one I suggested he might like to put some money into."

I found that intriguing, on one hand, that Ben, my father's lawyer, and strangely odd in a way, still a good friend of my mother's, would make such a call, and on the other, that it had to be this specific morning.

"I thought Dad considered you an empty-headed fool."  It was the more considerate of his endless insults.

"Once, perhaps, but Ben convinced him that it would be a good investment."

So, had she been mending bridges via Ben?  Or had my father finally come to his senses and realised what he'd done to her?  Or was there something between her and Ben.  I knew he had a thing for her, but she had been off-limits to him while my father was alive.  He would never sanction a relationship between them.

I let those words sink in for a few minutes before I said the next thought that come into my mind,  "I have to say it, but what the hell is going on?"

Before she had a chance to answer there was a knock on the door.

I jumped up and went over to the door and opened it.

Nothing could prepare me for the shock of seeing him again.

"Hello, Sam."

It was my father, back from the dead, standing as large as life in front of me.

© Charles Heath 2019


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