“Ash, it’s happened! I can’t believe it!” Matt began barking at the door. I had tried to pay no attention to him, but his words pulled me out of bed. “Remember what I told you? Well, it would seem that Anthony has finally found the love of his life!”
There was nothing stopping me. I ran as fast as I could past Marcus, Matt and down the stairs nearly falling down several. I halted the moment my eyes fell on Anthony sitting love struck on the couch. His eyes seemed a million miles away with his own thoughts as a smile lingered on his lips. “Anthony?”
His response was delayed, but finally his head turned my way. “Mum?”
“Are you alright?”
Matt and Marcus finally started down the stairs behind me laughing together. Keeping my eyes fastened on Anthony I started towards him. “It was perfect just like he said it would be.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say perfect, but we each have our own preference.” Matt started laughing again as he stood next to me. “You should see the love of his life.”
There was a light knocking on the front door and I motioned for Marcus to answer it. He was about to shrug me off and disregard that someone was out there. “It is your house, is it not?”
He grumbled the whole way to the door. When I looked back towards Anthony his eyes were on the door. Matt started howling again. Following Anthony’s eyes I was shocked to see him admiring the man in the door talking with Marcus. Quickly I turned to Matt for answers, “I have no idea. We fall for the soul, not for the person.”
I hurried to the door to find out who this man was, that had smitten my son so. As I grew closer I listened to the conversation. “The school had directed me here because of the delicate situation with Ms. Morlock. It seems that if she is not able to complete her schoolwork she will not be graduating.”
The man was handsome enough with his short brown hair and his impressive gray eyes. He had to have been in his late twenties, perhaps early thirties. He had a moustache and a small patch of hair on his chin which followed up his jaw line into his sideburns. He was wearing a suit, but instead of a tie he had a waistcoat underneath his jacket. In short he was a very professional looking person.
The gray eyes fell on me once I stepped around Marcus and the man began addressing me. “Hello, Ms. Morlock. I am here to home school you until you are able to return to school. That is if Mr. Seingalt would allow me. As I have already told you sir, the school is going to be responsible for all expenses. I’m just here as they requested.”
“Since when did you start caring about expenses?” I elbowed Marcus in the ribs.
“I never brought it up.” Marcus never took his eyes off of this man. “He did.”
This stranger looked between Marcus and I confused. “Mr. Hampton just wanted me to assure you that this was of no cost to you because you have already two other students enrolled as well as Ms. Morlock. If you have any questions regarding any of this he would be more than happy to hear from you.”
Marcus scratched his head and turned to me. I could see it in his face that he was trying not to laugh in front of this man. “I don’t like him.”
“It doesn’t matter if you do or not.” I smiled and motioned Marcus to Anthony sitting on the couch engaged in a conversation with Matt with his eyes fixed permanently on the doorway. “This, I believe, is out of your hands at the moment.”
Marcus sighed, “Why hasn’t Mr. Hampton called to mention this to me before?”
“He said that he has called your home and left messages with no response. He had also tried to contact you at your place of business, but with the same reply.” The man stepped down out of our doorway and back onto the sidewalk. “It has been two weeks since Ms. Morlock has attended any classes. We have received her doctor’s excuse for the first week, but nothing for this week. I just want to assure you, Sir that we will do everything we can so that your niece can graduate.”
Somewhere between the lack of energy, blood, and food I felt my legs beginning to buckle underneath me. Instinctively I reached for the closest thing to me, Marcus’ arm. I heard Anthony call out Mum before I heard him rushing toward me. My eyes went to the man’s outside the door hoping that he hadn’t caught what Anthony had said. Our eyes met momentarily but it seemed that he was more concerned about catching me if I had fallen out of the door than anything else. Anthony had come to my rescue quickly scooping me up into his arms.
“I’ll take you back up to bed.” Anthony spoke as I found myself again.
“No!” Marcus’ tone was not one to be argued with. “We’ve been shut up in that room for too long. She needs fresh air. Take her to the garden and Matt, get her some tea.”
I watched Matt rise quickly from the sofa. Raising his right hand over his brow in a salute, “Yes, Sir. Anything else, Sir? Possibly some cookies or draw her up a nice warm bath? Sir.”
Once Anthony reached a point where he was no longer visible from the front door he allowed us to arrive on the patio leading out into the backyard. He sat me in the chair right next to where we had appeared and knelt down. “Mum, are you alright?”
My concerns laid more with him rather than myself at the moment. I knew that I would eventually heal and get better, but I could see Anthony’s situation deteriorating quickly. “Anthony, I’m fine. How about you? Are you doing alright?”
I motioned for him to get up off the ground and take the seat next to me. The emotion that I had seen in his eyes on the couch was the same as he kept watching the back door. His body, I could tell, was having a problematical issue trying to stay put in the seat. I repeated my question again louder hoping to direct his attention to me.
“Did you see him?” Anthony questioned me with his eyes as bright as stars. “I mean did you really see him?”
“No, I don’t think I saw him like you did.” I smiled and tried to be as accepting as I could. “What did you see in him?”
“Perfection.” There was no lie in his eyes, and I believed that is exactly what he saw. Anthony must have read what I was thinking. “Mum, I’m not a homosexual. It isn’t that kind of love.”
Marcus joined in the conversation laying his hand on Anthony’s shoulder. “He’s like your brother, father, uncle, and best friend all one in the same. I understand, even if your mother doesn’t.”
Well, I honestly didn’t understand it until Marcus had cleared it up for me. “Well, with the way Matt described it, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.”
Marcus stepped around Anthony and closer to me. His fingers lifted my chin straight towards the sun. The heat and light burnt my eyes causing me to squeeze them shut. Marcus shifted my head slightly so that I was no longer facing the direct rays from the sun. When I had felt it was safe my vision opened to swallowed up Anthony’s shock. I immediately shifted my eyes to avoid his gaze. “Anthony, go get your mother a blanket.”
Anthony quickly disappeared and Marcus took his seat. “I don’t need a blanket.”
“He knows, but he also understands a hint as well.” Marcus leaned forward and lifted my hand to study it. “You’re getting worse. I think tonight we will break so that you can see a doctor.”
I had wanted to rip my hand away from his, but something else crawled through my mind. This time I leaned in as well letting my eyes fall into his again. There were answers that I had been searching for from him, but he had never let me see them. I dove inside of him and pulled everything I had to force his answers from him. “Tell me now Marcus, why won’t you give up your love for me. I know that it has to be worse for you than I. So now tell me why.”
“We have no time for this, Ashley.” Marcus fought against my skills, but he wasn’t strong enough. Slowly his eyes shifted and he caved in to my will. “Who would I be if I wasn’t in love with you? I have in me no other reason to breath or keep my heart from ceasing. It is my love for you that gets me through each day. It is the reason why I strive to give this family the best of everything.”
“Marc, I am not the one that can simply be bought off and you know that!” I argued.
“I know you very well, but you deserve to be provided with the best.” He lost himself completely into me. “I have to admit to you I would rather be a beggar continuing to love you rather than live this life without it. My love for you is all I have left in this world to hold onto, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.”
My anger was getting the best of me and now that I was fully enraged. “And how would you reply if I were to say that I don’t believe you. The only reason why you haven’t thrown away all of your love for me is because I haven’t shown you any feeling other than disgust. I can guarantee that the moment, if ever one could exist in this life, that I show you an ounce of love, it would be done with. I know you well Casanova.”
“Casanova? If you are speaking of such a name the topic must inevitably be about love.” A familiar voice broke into the conversation causing my eyes to glare into his direction. Walking beside Matt, who was carrying the tea tray, was the man from the doorway. “I’m sorry for breaking into your conversation, but Mathieu here has invited me to join you for tea.”
“Well, he looked a bit unsettled from your fainting at the doorway, so I couldn’t just let him go away in that state.” A sly grin was eagerly stretched across Matt’s face just adding more to my ferocity. “Oh, I’m sorry. Are we interrupting something?”
Marcus seemed enthused and thrilled that they had interjected themselves. “No, you were not, and it would be an honor to have Mr. Penbrook with us. It would give us a chance to meet the man who will be giving up his precious time to deal with our tenacious, unruly, spiteful, bitter, callous, heartless, foul…”
“We get the picture.” Matt rescued me from the disgrace that Marcus was putting up against me. My eyes landed on the teacup and saucer sitting in front of me. After I took the cup Matt took the seat between Marcus and I. “We understand that she’s an unloving sort of person, but there are times where she can be tolerable. Plus, Uncle, you don’t want to scare Mr. Penbrook off before Ashley graduates. So where did Anthony skip off to?”
Marcus leaned back into his seat. His eyes closed momentarily and suddenly Anthony was coming through the back door. He stopped short with the blanket in hand as he saw that Mr. Penbrook was also sitting at the table. It looked like he was debating on whether to go back into the house or come out and join us. I beckoned him to come join us which it was obvious I had made up his mind.
“Here,” Marcus got up from his seat taking the blanket from Anthony and nearly forcing him into his seat across from me. “Let me.”
I couldn’t help but cringe as Marcus laid the blanket over my lap and then stand behind me. His hands rested just behind my shoulders causing my natural position to become uneasy now that I had to lean forward so that we weren’t touching. Anthony noticed my being uncomfortable and must have hoped that conversation would ease the situation. “So what did I miss?”
“Mathieu and I came into a discussion regarding Casanova I believe, although we rudely interrupted them.” Mr. Penbrook smiled at Anthony which he just soaked up. “It was quite a heated discussion I must say. Ms. Morlock was rather irate.”
Matt started laughing, “Whenever the famous Casanova is involved in a discussion, you can be sure Ashley will be irate. I think she despises him.”
I rolled my eyes and chuckled slightly at the situation. Mr. Penbrook must have taken a notice in my reaction. “Ms. Morlock.”
“Ashley, please.” I corrected him.
“Ashley, why do you scoff at such a person when it is written in history that he was famous for loving those such as yourself?” Mr. Penbrook clearly did not understand Marcus in any way.
“No, I merely scoff at love.” I turned in my seat to face him directly now. “Casanova was not a man famous for loving. He was famous for bedding women, just like Don Juan. I don’t see any difference between the two of them. Neither of them could ever understand a woman’s heart. Their body, but never their heart.”
I waited for Marcus to say something, but there was only silence. Mr. Penbrook was caught off guard by my words and was in deep thought. After he looked around to see everyone looking to him he realized that we were all delaying for his response. He chuckled amusingly to himself. “It seems that I was right about the topic of the conversation when we first approached. You were debating about love. It seems that I stumbled into something that means a great deal to you all. However, I must say that it does seem like a deep subject for those that are so shallow in age.”
“Wait,” I held up my hand stopping him. “Are you saying that because we are so young we don’t understand love in any way?”
Mr. Penbrook lowered his eyes from mine. “I’m afraid that it would take a lifetime to correctly understand love.”
“A lifetime.” I chuckled looking over the faces of Anthony and Matt who also shared my amusement. “Are you stating that if, let’s say, Anthony age seventeen, nearly eighteen, died tomorrow that he would have never felt love to understand the meaning of it?”
Shifting uneasily in his seat, Mr. Penbrook had to rethink his words. “That would be a lifetime, but a very short one. I don’t think in such a small lifetime you three would truly comprehend all the ups and downs that love can offer.”
“So what you are saying is that a man, no older than seventeen, can comprehend the depth of love or the feeling of loosing love?”
I smirked as Anthony lowered his head into his hands. “So he wouldn’t know the unconditional love his mother holds for him, the love of brothers that would protect him from any danger this world has to offer, the love his girlfriend holds for him each time he whispers sweet sonnets into her ear, or the love he holds for a father that he never knew. You are saying that a man no older than seventeen could ever find the pain of watching those he loves die? He could never feel the agony of seeing someone he loves fall in love with someone else? I think Mr. Penbrook, you are mistaken. We have all felt the fortunes of love both good and bad, and we are all so shallow in age. I think, Mr. Penbrook, it is you that hasn’t lived a true life if you can make a statement such as what you have.”
I was proud of myself for leaving our new guest dumbfounded. Matt started laughing at the silence from Mr. Penbrook and it wasn’t long before Anthony joined. Now Marcus chuckled along with the rest of them. “We each have our own views on the differences of love. Love at first sight, platonic love, the agony of love, and unrequited love...”
“Unrequited love,” Matt sneered. His happy laughing turned into something hideous. “You are unbelievable. Do you know that? It isn’t unrequited love. It is complete and total panic that you send into her heart each time you touch her. You couldn’t be so lucky to have unrequited love. No, what you deserve is a lifetime of watching her suffer for every pain that you caused.”
“Matt, please don’t.” Anthony laid his hand on Matt’s shoulder trying to persuade him to stop, but it didn’t work.
“What I’m trying to figure out is why? After all this time, why now? What could you have possibly done in this past week to, to, to eliminate everything you’ve done to her.” Matt’s fury was mimicking my own just a few minutes ago. Marcus hand lifted off the back of the chair, and I could see him pointing for Matt to go to the house. Matt wasn’t happy with this at all. “What? Do I have to succumb to your wishes as well? I’m not like her and you do not have your evil snares attached to my life. I won’t have you ordering me around like the little boy you think I am. You are not as great here as you think you are. I’m the el...”
Marcus took off from behind my seat grabbed a hold of Matt’s arm ripping him out of the chair. I was sure that he was using his power against Matt because if he wasn’t Marcus would have never gotten him out of the chair. Marcus’ power was still greater than Matt’s because just as before he kept everything Michael had taken from everyone else.
I felt the immediate need to apologize to our guest for his behavior. “I’m so sorry. I honestly don’t know what that was about.”
“You don’t know what that was about?” Anthony nearly choked on his drink. “He’s pissed.”
My eyes grew ten times what they were. “Anthony!”
“I’m sorry.” Anthony chuckled knowing that he would have gotten worse for swearing, but luckily for him we had company with us. He elbowed Mr. Penbrook. “Hey, just don’t tell my mum.”
“You’re secret is safe with me.” Our guest replied laughing. “But I’m sure she’s the one you have to worry about saying something.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the uniqueness of the situation. “I think I could forget it ever happened if you could call the doctor. I think Marc was right.”
“Right about what?” Anthony was slow to get out of his seat keeping his eyes set upon me.
The dizziness that I had felt earlier was coming again. I clutched the blanket in my hands pulling it over me completely now. “About needing to see a doctor.”
“Will you be alright?” Anthony looked scared and ready to take off the moment I had answered, and that is exactly what he did too as I nodded.
I turned my attention to Mr. Penbrook who was looking at me concerned. “Don’t worry I am fine. So tell me about you. Where did you go to school?”
Mr. Penbrook hesitated as he studied me. Once he had realized that I was obviously alright he started talking. “I actually attended Cafton myself. Although, I wasn’t as lucky as your family to live so close by and have such a beautiful home.”
“You lived in the dormitories?” I questioned.
He nodded, “Then I attended Notre Dame, but I was still completely undecided in what I wanted to do with my life so I went back home and got a Masters in education from University of Pennsylvania So what do you think? Am I qualified to your standards?”
“Perhaps.” I tried to smile, but a thick churning blunt pain shot through my entire abdomen. I cringed with the menacing pain, but kept my mind on our topic. “Its Anthony’s dream to go to Harvard and that is why we are here.”
“And you? What are your aspirations?” Mr. Penbrook shifted in his seat noticing my discomfort.
“Mr. Penbrook, I don’t want to discourage you, but I feel that your time here with me will be useless. I have no plans for after school, and I don’t foresee me graduating at all.” I didn’t want to prolong this man’s time for nothing. I had to be straightforward letting him know my plans. “I will do each assignment that you give me, but I would appreciate it greatly if you would work with Anthony. He could use your knowledge more than I.”
The man seemed enthralled with me now. “Ashley, I have gone over everything that the school has. You are a brilliant and passionate young lady so I don’t understand why you would just give up your future like you so foolishly want to.”
“Mu, um, Ash,” Anthony came running back out of the house nearly forgetting Mr. Penbrook was sitting here with me. “He said that he won’t step foot in our house, especially since Marc is here. He wants to know if you can go to him.”
“Is he serious?” Mr. Penbrook nearly jumped out of his seat. “She is in no condition to travel anywhere.”
“Tell Michael that we have a guest at the moment, and Marc will be on his best behavior. Matt, however, I can’t guarantee that he will be.” My chest was so tight now that I took short shallow breaths hoping not to cause any more torture to myself. “Tell him, that we are outside and he won’t need to step one foot in the house. Please, Anthony.”
“I will get him here in five minutes even if I have to drag him here myself.” Anthony announced as he headed off in the opposite direction.
Mr. Penbrook started chuckling, “Where’s he going?”
“To get Michael, so that he doesn’t have to step foot in the house.” I laughed, but then I yelled to Anthony, “Just be nice. He is family!”
The dizziness started taking over once more and oddly enough it extended the pit in my stomach. Closing my eyes I shifted my head in Mr. Penbrook’s direction. “If it is permissible, may I ask what is it that you are suffering from?”
I pulled my legs up to my chest in hopes that it would help ease the pain, but it had only made it worse. Straightening my body out I found it easier to answer. “I’m sure I am dying, but from what I don’t know. I am hoping Michael will be able to tell me more.”
“The doctor?” Mr. Penbrook questioned. “If you ask me I don’t believe that he would be the best doctor for you. It is obvious that he does not take your condition very seriously.”
I had to cut him off right then. “Mr. Penbrook, Michael is the best doctor that I know. He is family to the men living here, and a dear friend to me. I will not have you disrespecting him before you’ve even met him.”
Before Mr. Penbrook had a chance to apologize Anthony started out from behind a hedge. I nearly choked on my tea as I started laughing when Michael followed him. His black hair had faded back to the white when I had first met him. What I had found more hilarious than anything was his attire. It was a simple business suit, which I’ve never seen him in before. On his face he had a pair of sunglasses covering his eyes. Once his eyes had landed on me they came off in a swift move of his hand. In his other he held a black briefcase.
Anthony came directly to my side, “He said he was working, but I got him here.”
Michael looked over at our guest, but then turned his attention back to me. “Well, I must say, you don’t look good.”
His eyes shifted from me once more as Marcus announced himself loudly as he was walking from the back door. “She’s been vomiting, running a decent fever, dizziness, fainting, and now that we have gotten her outside I noticed that she has jaundice as…”
“I am the doctor, she is the patient, and you from what I understand is the cause now please let me see for myself what is going on.” Michael shocked me by his mood, but he most likely wasn’t happy about being drug from whatever he was doing. “You are a lawyer, not a doctor, remember?”
“If you wish to see the cause you need look no further than the woman sitting in front of you.” Michael’s response to Marcus’ words was physical. He was now standing directly in front of Marcus glaring intently. Had I the strength I would have been between them forcing them apart, but I did not. Anthony placed his hand on my arm noticing that I was trying to get up.
My eyes were directed to Mr. Penbrook afraid of how he would take this. However, movement from between them turned my attention back to Michael and Marcus. Michael’s hand was on Marcus’ chin turning it so that the wounds I had inflicted on him were visible. A smile came over Michael. “Kitty’s got claws.”
Marcus did not reciprocate Michael’s change in attitude. “No, it’s her damned blood.”
I could feel Mr. Penbrook’s eyes staring at me, but Michael’s eyes kept my attention on him. He shoved Marcus from him and started towards me again. “Bleeding?”
“She’s been…” Marcus quickly shut his mouth when Michael shot daggers at him.
After I had assured Michael that I wasn’t physically bleeding at the moment he came closer and started his small examination. Anthony had moved and started talking quietly with Mr. Penbrook. I was sure that he would have enjoyed this time to get to know the man who had just overwhelmed him greatly. I noticed that Marcus had taken a chair at the table again, and Matt was standing in the doorway watching from a distance.
“I can only assume from what I see, it is,” Michael started to declare his findings, but he paused as everyone stared at him. “Septicemia.”
I could have sworn I saw everyone present, except for Michael and me, shutter with his word. Marcus stood up, “That’s it. You are going to the hospital right now.”
“NO!” I shouted at all of them.
Michael leaned in for only me to hear. I could see the sincerity through his eyes. “Ash, please, this is worse than what I had imagined. Anthony told me that you’ve been like this for days now locked up in your room. You have to go get antibiotics…”
I had listened only so closely to his words and the care he sent through them. Some part of me brought up my dream. Blyth’s voice came boiling to the surface as everything became dark in my sight. He was warning about Michael’s threat. I knew now that not even Michael had listened to his own words.
Misery was worn through his eyes as he waited for an answer from me. My heart was still hardened against him just as I let it sometime ago. Slowly he began backing away from me as he started standing. He must have understood the look in my eyes and that I wasn’t in a pleasant mood. “Where’s your gun?”
“What?” Mr. Penbrook now scrambled from his seat.
Michael calmly stepped even further back as I found my feet beneath me. I questioned him again. “Michael, where’s your gun?”
As I took small steps closer to him he slowly pulled the gun out from behind him and held it out for me to take. “What do you want it for?”
“I think it is time for you to disappear now.” I recognized the pain in his eyes as he was telling me that I should try to save my own life. “Kill me and never look back!”
I never saw the gun pointed at me or heard it go off. Everything faded in front of me except Michael’s bright green eyes. There was a time in this life that I would have given anything to have him look at me like he did, but this would be the last time I intended to see him. Blyth was right and I needed to leave as quickly as I was able.