SHADOW

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CHAPTER 4

ALAN FOUND THE time to have a similar heart-to-heart with his father the next day when he got back from work.

The house help had just finished tidying around the house, prepared and stuffed the meals in the freezer. Tim and Rachel were in their room doing homework or playing around with some toys. Alan remained in the living room, worked a while on his science project, but his thoughts were on other matters.

“Hi, Dad,” he said absently, when his dad came in.

His father stopped in the middle of the living room and stared around uncertainly. Then, turning around, he muttered a casual response and headed to his room. He was out again a moment later, with his shoes off and shirt unbuttoned, strode to the kitchen to get something to eat.

Alan could hear him mumbling irritably, heard the clattering of plates and cutleries, and the freezer door slammed shut. Then Dad came out to the living room with a cold beer in hand, shot Alan a suspicious look before going back to his room without a word. Mom had vehemently opposed the idea of Dad stocking any kind of alcoholic beverage in the kitchen freezer on account of the children. They had fought severally on the subject, until Mom finally gave up and decided to let him be.

Alan watched him quietly, allowed a few minutes for him to settle down and stretch out his feet. Then he slammed his science project shut and went in after him.

Dad was slouching on the large, single sitter armchair in the middle of the room, which was dimly lit because the blinds were pulled up. That was exactly how Dad preferred the room to be; dark and dreary. He felt it shut him away, kept him safe from the troubles of society. But Mom had bitterly contested that until, eventually, she had to relocate to the vacant guest room. She dreaded the gloom that being around Jonathan meant.

Dad looked up curiously, turning his gaze from the TV program he was watching when the door opened. Alan hesitated at the entrance before pushing the door shut gently. His dad watched him silently, his eyebrows furrowed curiously. The beer was on the small glass table beside the chair while the remote control lay on the chair close to his thigh, as though he had been flipping channels when Alan came in.

“Hi, Dad,” he said again, blandly. “You want something to eat?”

Dad squinted and stared at him for a moment. Then ignoring the invitation to dine, he said, “Everything alright, Son?”

Alan gasped nervously. “Can I have a word with you?”

Dad paused, sat up and moved a bit, making some room for Alan on the couch beside him. Then he set the remote control on the table beside the beer. “Sure, Son; come in and have a seat, here.”

Alan walked in slowly, his eyes wandering about the room. “Thanks, Dad,” he said, taking the seat beside him. It was an awkward moment.

“Sure, Al; what’s on your mind?” his father asked him, now with a suspicious frown.

Alan hesitated anxiously. “It’s about Mom,” he began, but stopped tentatively when Dad croaked irritably at the mention of ‘Mom’.

“What about your mother, Alan?” he asked unpleasantly. “She’s starting to get under your skin, too?”

“It’s not that,” replied Alan tersely.

“What’s it, then?”

“I was wondering if it’s possible that you and Mom got along–” Alan was saying.

But Dad grimaced and snorted. “We are getting along as we should, Alan. Or haven’t you noticed?” he retorted and then drank some beer.

Alan said, “I’m serious, Dad.”

“I am, too.”

Alan hesitated. “But the two of you do nothing except fight all the time,” he said.

“That’s how your mom wants it, Son. It’s no fault of mine.”

“It’s kinda frustrating to me, and to Rachel and Tim as well,” Alan told him politely.

“Really?” asked Dad, quietly puzzled.

He nodded. “No one is really paying any attention to what’s going on around here; not you, not Mom,” continued Alan. “You guys are never around to take care of us.”

“I’m around,” returned Dad, drank more beer.

Alan shook his head, exasperated. “You know what I mean, Dad.”

There was a brief pause as Jonathan Prince watched his son discretely, contemplating what he was talking about. “Did your mother put you up to this?” he asked him.

Alan shook his head. “She asked me the very same question when I spoke with her.”

Dad looked at him, his eyebrows furrowed. “You spoke with your mother?”

“Uh-huh.”

Dad snorted again, drank some beer.

“So?” said Alan.

“So what?” said Dad.

“So is it possible that you two straightened things out between each other?”

Dad paused, glared at him. Then he clicked his tongue and shook his head. “No, Al,” he answered. “It’s not possible in the foreseeable future for your mother and me to get along fine. Not unless she recognizes her place and mine in this house.”

“Do you really think that Mom is having a relationship with someone else?” asked Alan carefully, cutting right to the chase.

Dad looked at him squarely in the face. “I know damn well that she is, Son. I know it in my heart.”

“But there’s no way you can know, unless you catch her at it, right?” Alan pointed out tactfully.

“That’s where you’re wrong, Son,” retorted his father. “I’ve been married to your mother for many years and I know when something ain’t right. I see it in her eyes,” he insisted.

There was a brief, awkward silence.

“I asked her,” interjected Alan, in a forlorn tone.

“Asked her what?”

“You know; if she was seeing someone.”

Dad seemed surprised at that. “I’m guessing she told you otherwise, right?”

Alan nodded quietly.

“And I take it that you believe her.” It was a plain statement, not a question, so Alan said nothing. He only sat stiffly, staring at the floor around his feet.

Dad smirked, frowned as though he was disappointed in him. “Come here, Son, let me tell you something,” he said. “When you get older, become a man, you’ll understand just how two-timing and deceiving women can be. They can pull up all kinds of stunts just to make an a-hole outta you. But you be sure not to give them the opportunity,” he added distastefully.

“But my mom’s not like that,” said Alan quietly. “She’s different.”

“You wish,” retorted Dad darkly, unimpressed.

Silence.

Alan didn’t know what else to say, so he got up to leave. He really looked uncertain, his countenance defeated.

“So what did she say?” Dad asked suddenly.

Alan turned at the door. “About what?”

“You know, you said she thought I got you to speak with her,” Dad reminded him. “So what did she have to say about me?”

Alan paused. “She’s willing to give it a try,” he told him.

His father stared at him with a vacant, distant look in his eyes. He said nothing.

Alan left the room, shutting the door gently behind him.

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