pulled to the curb. “You want me to
opened the door and stepped one foot out, as if testing the temperature of the
water. “Yeah, wait,” I amended. “Please.
Fifteen minutes, tops.”
nodded and shook open his newspaper to the sports page.
the door and passed through the gates leading to the brownstone. The lawn was well-tended, mowed precisely and
evenly. Not a single leaf dotted the
grass, despite the wind. Late-blooming
flowers churned out their colors, while those whose summer work was done had
been trimmed back neatly. Here and there
small statues decorated the garden.
Eugene often joked, in better days, that they were his family. He once told me he liked them because they
didn’t talk back.
I knocked quietly. The doorbell would be too loud; too merry.
housekeeper opened the door. She wore a
crisp white apron over her dress, nearly ironed and heavily starched. She spoke in hushed tones as if Eugene were
already dead. “Welcome, Tom. Thank you for coming. Shall I take your coat?”
“Please.” I wanted to address her by name, but the
truth was, Eugene had never introduced us.
She was just always there, a
presence, like one of the statues in his garden, alive, yes, but never talking
back. Never having any needs to attend
to except Eugene’s.
up the stairs. “He’s in the study. You know the way.”
was soft beneath my feet. I grabbed the
handrail to steady my nerves. I paused
outside the door for a moment before grasping the handle—custom made; a copper
rosebud polished to perfection—and turning it to the right.
behind the desk, stacks of paper before him.
He looked up, removed his glasses.
Smiled weakly. “Tom. Good of you to come. I’d get up but…”
nodded. Stepped into the room and shut
the door. But I lingered there. “You look…good.”
He barked a
laugh. “I look like shit, Tom. You’re always glossing over everything,
aren’t you? Lying, I suppose is the
better term. That’s why you were in the
front and I was in the back, doing the real work.” I stiffened then relaxed. It was true: Eugene was the business
man. I just spun tales for the media.
it go, Tom.” I was startled by the pleading
note in Eugene’s voice. “Keep it
running. That business is like a child
to me. The daughter I never had.”
frowned. “Laura refused to have anything
to do with me. Refused my money; refused
the vacations; refused the college education I dangled before her. Had to do it on her own, the stubborn fool.”
grinned. “Perhaps she’s more like her
father than you realize. Or admit.”
her mother through and through.” Eugene grunted. Do you know she’s got three boys? And I’ve never even met them?”
shrugged. Feigned indifference. Of course I knew, the children were my own
flesh and blood.
“I bet she
thinks she’s getting it all.”
shrugged. Laura didn’t want her father’s
it all to you, Tom.”
gestured around the expansive room. “The
houses, the business, the cars…All yours.”
smiled. “I’m sure you’ll find a
way.” Then he closed his eyes. “Leave me now, I’m tired.”
the stairs. The housekeeper appeared on
silent feet and retrieved my coat. I
slipped into it. “Thank you…” I turned.
“What is your name, anyway?”
her head. “It doesn’t matter.” As she opened the front door for me, I saw
gray clouds moving in to take their place in the sky.
I got into
the taxi and gave the driver Laura’s address.
The driver folded his newspaper and put the car in gear.
name,” I asked, handing the driver a stack of bills outside Laura’s house.
His eyes met
mine in the mirror. “What, you getting
religion now that your business partner’s dying? You don’t care about my name, Tom Jacobs.”
Laura met me
at the door, hands on hips. “You went to
see him, didn’t you?”
“I asked you
not to. Let him be the needy one for
business partner, Laura. Besides that,
he’s my friend. Don’t you want to know how he’s doing?”
at least going to let me come in?”
suddenly realized that Laura didn’t love me at all. I had merely been a pawn in Eugene’s and
Laura’s chess game. I couldn’t let her
go: “He left me everything,” I said.
“How will you survive on your own?”
smiled. “Eugene taught you well.”
thunder clapped and rain streaked down the windows like tears.
And at that
very moment, I was later told, Eugene Davidson died.
This was written in response to Storydam's weekly writing challenge.
Labels: Fiction, Story Dam