This was a photograph of the place where they would be taken. An old isolated monastery in Armenia. Delilah and our mother would be kept there for a period of two years. Time enough for me to handle things here and bring Stan closer to me.
I hid the brochure under my pillow because I could hear the tap of high heels approaching my bedroom door. The wearer halted right outside the entrance to my room, and I held my breath because I felt so guilty about the scheme I had put into place. Whoever it was changed their mind and walked away.
Breathing a sigh of relief, I dressed in comfortable clothes for I wanted to walk along the beach to clear my thinking. Lately my thought processes seemed cloudy and a little strange. Mayhap when I fainted I had hit my head. I ran my fingers over my skull but didn’t discover any bumps or lumps. Good.
Dressed in black from head to foot I wrapped a scarf around my neck and put on my parka. Checking in the pockets for gloves, for it had turned much colder, my hand touched something square and flat. Removing it from the inside of my jacket I was shocked to find Stan’s wallet. What on earth was it doing in my pocket? I knew it at once, for I had purchased it as a Christmas gift, two years before. I looked inside but it was entirely empty. Lifting it to my nose, I inhaled his scent, for he must have handled it so many times. Why was it in my pocket! I would fret over this for the remainder of the day.
Earlier I had visited my father in the west wing of the estate. There he was tended round the clock by an expert nursing staff. They told me he’d had a rough night and his breathing was a bit labored. By the time I took my leave, he rested peacefully, as though somewhere in his mind he recognized the touch of my hand and understood the intentions in the soothing words I spoke. I really wanted to believe this was so.
Walking along the water’s edge, I removed the photo of the monastery I had brought with me. Once more I felt delight in my clever plan. The two of them could keep each other company and our mother would finally have all of Delilah’s attention, for it was certain that there would be no one there who would listen to their explanations or pleas. At the end of their stay they would be rescued and returned to the States.
The pounding surf drowned out the arrival of a young man wearing a white lab coat, and I was startled to realize I was no longer alone. He looked familiar to me and as he came into focus I recognized him as one of the male nurses, who took care of my father. I immediately knew what he was going to tell me before his mouth opened to say the words, which I’d been dreading. I waved him off and ran away to be by myself. My father had died and a part of me had died too.
By the time I was back in my suite of rooms, I blindly made my way to the window seat to sit in silence. I was not surprised by my father’s death. Sadly I realized the only person who had ever really cared about me had left me alone.
My mother entered my room without knocking, and began fidgeting with the perfume bottles on my dressing table. She seemed to want to line them up with the round sprayers touching. Raising her eyes to mine, she seemed apologetic when finally she spoke softly, “Constance, as you know your father is gone, God rest his soul. Is there anything I can do for you?” Tears rolled down her face, shocking me for a minute. Had she really cared for father? I asked myself.
“Did you ever care for my father?” I blurted the question before I realized I had spoken aloud. She nodded her head turning slowly to walk away. She looked back over her shoulder and because she appeared so very tired, I relented and walked over to her. “Your father and I did not have love but we did have respect and sometimes a friendship. I too shall miss him.” Her drooping shoulders told me she spoke the truth. Turning away from me now she walked out of the room and toward her private chambers.
Could I, in my confused thinking have entirely misunderstood her feelings? Apparently I had and now … oh no! My hands flew to my face and I silently wailed. “What have I done?” The sentence I had imposed upon my half-sister was well deserved, but now I knew that I could not do the same to our mother. It seemed as if she had suffered for her deception, and who was I to hurt her even more?
My father’s death had opened up a well of compassion which I needed to explore, but I must act quickly if I hoped to renegotiate the terms of my contract.
Lying down I was overcome by sleep.