Jahili’s call woke me up in the middle of the night, while I wasn’t completely asleep. What he said still felt unreal to me, but a part of me knew that it was true. He was, no doubt, devastated, and the same devastation had infected me as well. Dantis, who he loved the most in this world, had passed away. For someone as passionate and fragile as Jahili, the news could easily have shattered his heart…no, it could have easily shattered anyone’s, for Dantis was an admirable man, a dear friend, and, and…
No, I shouldn’t have possessed this kind of thought, and felt very much ashamed for possessing it. It was an ugly thought, one that drove a part of me into celebrating Dantis’ death. A despicable thought, yet I knew it stemmed from the very reason why I’m rushing back to the hotel right now. It pains me to see that after all this time…my feeling for that man had not changed. I thought I’d have given up, but it was an absurd assumption. His pleading voice, his weakness easily brought panic to my mind and ache to my chest. The barrier that I had worked hard to build up to defend against him quickly crumbled under his need. He needed me, whether it was because he wanted me or simply wanted some kind of comfort. I couldn’t put him down, the only one who I was certain to be attracted to.
Come back, he said. And at that very moment, I yearned for him, yearned to pull him into an embrace, to heal him, to make him forget.
My attempt to sneak out of the estate unnoticed didn’t progress very well, for I was stopped by mother as I attempted to bypass the gate. Though unimpressed by my rushed decision, she made no attempt to keep me, much to my relief. I am eternally indebted to her for being an understanding mother, and, in addition to apologies, promised her that I would return after things were settled. In the meantime, she wanted me to give some more thoughts in father’s request, as well as the possibility of marriage.
It was unlikely that any thoughts would be given to my own situation when my mind was occupied with the well-being of another. Nonetheless, I agreed, and in return, she called a taxi for me to send me away. The taxi driver looked sleepy as he drove me down to the airport, and I assumed he must looked surprised to find me still wide awake by the time we’ve reached our destination. The airport was quiet at this hour under the night sky, but my mind provided enough chaos for me to enjoy the calm atmosphere. My next flight was in three hours, and I gave a quick call to Jahili informing him the rough time of my arrival. He sounded less agitated this time, much to my relief.
It was only a matter of time now..
Trip back home - day3
Mr. Baker’s family visit occurred early afternoon after our family reunion meal. A perfect time for a small tea party, as father suggested. It appeared that I wasn’t the only one who was addicted to tea in this household, and of course, I voiced no objection to this delightful activity. Mother seemed to be reluctant to meet with someone of father’s rank, but she was reassured of her place in the household, and decided to come along.
A man whose figure clearly contrasted father’s, Mr. Baker appeared much healthier for his age. His youngest daughter, miss Elizabeth, had her father’s piercing eyes. Her beauty radiated in the garden in which we prepared for the tea party, and I wished I had been more talented in words to describe her charms. Judging by appearance, I already knew that she was the one that father was talking about, for the older daughter looked the age of my mother, only the latter looked much younger for her age.
The tea party consisted of simple conversations, Mr. Baker and father being the main participants. Though she did not speak much, miss Elizabeth had her eyes on me most of the time, as I have noticed each time my eyes rested on her face. Her look was not of admiration, but rather skepticism, which I found reasonable considering perhaps she too, was surprised to find out about her sudden engagement. On the other hand, mother seemed to not mind the constant judgement from the other party. In fact, she often reminded me of the fact that miss Elizabeth was trying to study me as much as possible without inquiring. I wonder if mother was already fond of her, as she often expressed her liking to individuals with open mind and straight-forward personality, much similar to herself. At the same time, I had, once again, questioned her opinion of me, which to this day she spoke no word of it.
To my surprise, miss Elizabeth requested a tour of the mansion and demanded me as her tour guide, despite knowing that I have just returned the day before. I think father took her intention as an invitation to spend time with me alone, which was why he approved almost immediately. As much as I was uncomfortable with the request, my headstrong fiancée seemed to refuse to take no as an answer. The tour, as one would have guessed, involved a lot of wrong turns and instances of getting lost. It was an awkward situation, for she spoke very little during the tour, though she proved to be a good listener to my flawed description of places.
The tour came to an end at the other side of the garden, where father had, while I was away, planted a field of roses. Miss Elizabeth offered me a seat next to her as she decided to rest at our final stop, and I took the chance to apologize for my horrible attempt of a tour guide, as well as expressing my sympathy for the sudden engagement. She surprised me once again by stating that the engagement was arranged a long time ago, and that I had simply forgotten because I was forced to move away with mother. She also attempted to awaken my memory of her when we were younger, and how little I have changed since then. I wasn’t sure if I should feel relieved to know that she was not a stranger or to be embarrassed by the fact that she knew more about the “normal” part of my childhood more than I did, but in the end, I couldn’t remember as much as she had hoped.
“I always knew you’d become a gentleman, and a gentle man too.” She laughed at her own words while still urging me to sit down. “I’m sorry, you just looked so nervous. I couldn’t resist teasing you.”
..Well, at least she proved to be friendlier than I thought.
Sensing my reluctance, she offered to break the engagement with me if I could give her a good reason to, and, once again, I told her that I’d think about it. By the end of the day, I was suddenly burdened with another decision to make. Mr. Baker’s family took their leave after dinner, yet my heart remained heavy until my mind caught the spell of sleep.
I think mother finally wanted me to tell her more about what happened after my shop was burnt down, but she made no attempt to keep me awake. So I promised that I’d tell her tomorrow, though I must find a chance to gather my thoughts again, and rethink the reason why I ran back here.
Judgement awaits tomorrow…
Trip back home - day2
Mother dragged me out of bed early in the morning. I wasn’t exactly tired, but I was admittedly never a morning person either. She had been acting strange since yesterday, saying things that I couldn’t believe she’d say. From her expression, it seemed that she had put up a barrier, barring me from questioning her further. Her extra calm expression told me that she wasn’t completely satisfied with what happened. It was the exact thing that kept me on my toes, the fact that she didn’t chastise me, and barely even commented on my return. She welcomed me back, but in a manner that made me uncomfortable nevertheless. And worst of all, I could not ask, for I have not the courage to pry into what was on her mind. Mother was, as far as I could remember, quite secretive, preferring to keep all her thoughts and opinions to herself.
To my surprise, she insisted on sending me to father’s estate herself. It appeared that she had not seen father in person for over 5 years, though they communicated through letters and electronic mails. I could not describe in words how awkward it felt when I sat in the car with her, surrounded by dead silence. The trip was longer than expected, and eventually I fell asleep, only to be woken up by mother when we arrived.
Father gained weight, again. That was my first impression. I have not seen this man since my teenage years, and even from the vague memories I recalled him being plump. Unlike mother however, he seemed to be ecstatic to see me, even confronting me with a warm—I suppose one would describe this as a—bear hug. By the time I realized it, mother had retreated back to the hallway, leaving us alone. My mind had not the time to wonder if I had indeed angered mother with my return before father decided to pile everything on me—and by everything I meant it in a literal sense.
“It’s good to see you back, Isaac! I have longed to see your return, and I must thank the lord for bringing you back to me.”
“As you can see…I am getting quite old, and in poor health—” (I had the urge to remind him that perhaps more exercising would help ) “—it is only a matter of time before my time in this world is up, and I would need an heir to my fortune.”
“I don’t know if you remember, but you do have an older brother, Frank. He was the righteous heir, born from my now deceased wife. Your mother was my secret mistress, and her identity, as well as yours, had to be kept secret from her. Thankfully, she and Frank lived in another mansion, which was why you were allowed to reside here during her absence. Your mother made the decision to leave the estate when the two ladies had their first meeting. It wasn’t a pleasurable one, as far as I recall…But in any case, my wife returned afterwards, and had been living here until her death 2 years ago. Ah, you are wondering what any of these have anything to do with you? Well…urm.”
(Father cleared his throat nervously, I can almost see beads of sweat forming on his forehead. )
“You see, Frank was..a rather troublesome child. He was spoiled to the core by his mother, and had immense talent in pleasuring the ladies. He was a charming young man, alright, but he was more interested in fun and games than serious business such as running a family fortune. I have received news that a couple of months ago, he had sold off a part of my estate to a French prostitute to buy her freedom. He seemed to have fallen madly in love with her, and did so without my knowing or consent. By the time I found out this was his doing, he had already disappeared from the estate, presumably traveling to France to meet his lover. I am..quite worried Isaac. I had to cut off ties with him and strip him off of his title of heir to save my estate from being ruined by that man. I didn’t want to, because I had no other son…at least that’s what I thought until I remembered your mother. “
(He took a step forth and took my hand, looking at me as if I was his savior sent down by the lord. )
“At first, it was hopeless, for neither your mother nor I know about your whereabouts. I had given up hope, but now…here you are. I know this is a very sudden request, and I don’t need your immediate decision…but perhaps..perhaps you would like to consider inheriting my fortune as the next Master of this estate?”
Father was right, it was indeed a sudden request. I had no answer for him at the moment. In fact, my speech was completely impaired until he dismissed me from his office. I met up with mother in the hallway, only to find her smiling for the first time since I returned.
“What do you think?” She asked. “I think a nobility title fits you better than a trainer.”
I smiled back, but in actuality, I wasn’t sure. I have, after all, been trained to become a trainer. By accepting father’s request, I would essentially admit that all the trainings had been wasted. In addition, I’d feel like I had chosen father over mother, the latter of which I loved much more than the former. I told both that I would need some time to think things over, which was ironic, because I have only returned to this country in an attempt to avoid making decisions.
Father ran out of his office just as we were about to leave, wanting us to stay. He announced that the noble daughter of one of his long time colleges was coming to visit tomorrow, and that he had intended me to meet my fiancée.
Trip back home - day1
I’ve always imagined the hotel to be a place far away from home, but it only took a few hours of flight before I was back on my homeland. The trip was surprisingly short, although I suppose when one had a lot to think about, time tend to fly quickly.
Returning to Britain..was probably not the best idea, as I’ve came to regret as soon as I stepped off of the plane. It was an odd but familiar feeling, a longing, mixed with dread. I have, as I came to realize a long time ago, essentially abandoned all my resolves, ones that kept me stubbornly away from home, by making the decision to return. I could only blame this on myself and my poor decision-making ability and, in part, the pressure that had suddenly crushed down on me in the past few days. I don’t know if I’m being brave right now to finally return to my mother, or simply running away from my current problems. But I knew, that when I had made the decision, I was on the verge of insanity. Emotional pains were not something I could easily handle, as much as I have hoped otherwise.
Speaking of mother, her shop was my first destination, for father lived further away from the airport. Although her shop was in a suburban area, she was, as far as I could recall, always busy. She, unlike myself, was an elder in this field. I had no doubt that her business remained flourishing today, and this was confirmed when I arrived there in the early afternoon.
I was immediately greeted by a couple of her clients, waiting in line to make future appointments. To keep them company, I stayed around the shop front, as I was not in a hurry nor exactly ready to meet her so soon. They weren’t old ones that I was familiar with, and, judging from their faces, they assumed that I too, was one of mother’s clients. I could not deny the partial truth in the assumption, as I have received far more training sessions from her than any of her clients. Thankfully, they did not pry further…I believe mother had taught them well, both physically and in terms of respect of one’s privacy.
Mother’s expression when she caught sight of me was both surprising and expected. My presence was a shock to her, though she acted calmer than I have imagined. For my sake, she had postponed all her appointments and closed the shop for the day, despite my attempt to convince her otherwise. I was reminded of the fact that she always saw her family before her business. It made me happy, but at the same time, I felt far too guilty to believe that I deserve this treatment.
Nothing escaped her eyes, as I have come to believe. She didn’t ask for an explanation of my sudden return, at least not right away. I have..never realized how much I missed her, and how much she missed me until I saw her again today. Nine years…she hadn’t changed much, but marks of aging was still apparent. When I complimented her looks, she retaliated by mocking me, expressing her endless jealousy of my “fair skin”.
“You look like you’ve been treated as a woman.” She said. And it made me believe that my all powerful mother had somehow gained the ability to read mind while I was away, struggling to become a professional. Her deduction was, of course, nothing more than a guess. Though unfortunately, it was true, a fact that I have became quite ashamed of. I dropped the conversation with a mere chuckle, but surely, she’d have read through my thoughts thoroughly without needing a verbal tale.
Nevertheless, I told her about my experiences after I left home, starting from when I left the country for the first time, to settling down in America, and eventually, the demise of my shop. I have expected a good chastise from her, but she, once again, acted beyond my expectation. Mother was quite sarcastic, as I came to realize, and it occurred to me how little I knew of her while I was still a teenager. Perhaps she had changed, matured over the years, or perhaps I was simply not attentive enough to notice. Her words, though calm, stun. It was as if she knew I was going to fail, and she knew I’d come back eventually to ask for help. The thought had upset me, but her next words was even more devastating.
“You know, I’ve been thinking, maybe you are not fit to become a trainer after all.”
I asked her what it meant, but she simply shrugged it off. Instead, she insisted that I should rest, for she wanted to send me away to father tomorrow. She seemed…to be in a hurry. I couldn’t help but to think that there was more to her words. Could it be true? All my life…I’ve been practicing, striving to become someone as great as mother. Yet, today, I was told not to. Why? Did she make the wrong choice from the start? Was it because I came back? Was it because I failed?
Until my mind sort out these questions, I shall not rest. I have a feeling that tonight will be a sleepless night…