The Medal
Wayne Purdy
Alex Allenby returns home to visit his dying father. His father has one regret; he witnessed the ... Show More
Genres:
Contemporary Fic., Literary, Sci Fi
Tags:
world war 2, time travel,

Chapter 10

The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and for deeds left undone.
Harriet Beecher Stowe

     Alex sat across from Emily at the Lionshead. It was her suggestion that they meet for lunch and he readily agreed. Their relationship had always been rocky but it was especially so now. They’d both been walking on eggshells around the other, and it was past time they aired their differences. Upon taking their seats in the booth that Alex had come to see as his, he noted the waitress was busy and decided to place their drink order at the bar.

     “What are you having? He asked her.

     “I don’t know,” she said. “Is it too early for a glass of wine?”

     “It’s special circumstances,” he said. “Normal social rules don’t apply.”

     Emily smiled. “Wine it is,” she said. “White and sweet. Maybe a moscato?”

     “I hadn’t known you were a connoisseur,” he teased her. “I’ll check, but somehow I doubt that they’ll have too wide a selection.” Alex ventured across the dining room with its heavy wood trim and ornate cornices and headed towards the bar. The pub wasn’t too busy, it was a little early yet for the lunch crowd but the waitress had a large group to deal with, it looked to be a business meeting of some sort. He sidled up to the bar and waited patiently for the bartender. After several minutes they made eye contact and the bartender took a break from stacking a tray of freshly washed glasses to take his order. Surprisingly, they had a moscato. It was a refreshing Chilean wine that Alex was assured was quite sweet. He ordered himself a Stella Artois and carried them over to their table.

     Emily took a sip from her glass. “That’s good,” she said. “Just what I was craving.”

     “Good,” Alex replied. They sat in awkward quiet for several minutes. Alex drained half his bottle for want of something to do. Finally, Emily spoke.

     “Are we okay?”

     “What do you mean?” He asked.

     “You and I? Are we okay?”

     Alex sighed. “I think so. Don’t you?”

     “I don’t know,” she said. “This isn’t easy.” She paused, and briefly closed her eyes. It seemed to Alex as though she were thinking of what to say and how to say it.

     “Just spit it out,” he suggested. “You won’t hurt my feelings. Scout’s honour.”

     “I’ve been jealous of you my whole life,” she said. “Ever since we were kids.” She’d never told him this before. She’d never told anyone, not even Clive. Yet, Alex still knew. Or rather, he suspected.

     “I know,” he said. “You had no reason to. Believe me, I’m nothing special.”

     “Oh, I know that,” she said, before breaking into a laugh. “God, that sounds terrible. I meant that, you’re a normal, average man. I think I’ve just been looking at you through a baby sister’s eyes. I guess it doesn’t really matter how old we are, you’ll always be my big brother, if that makes sense.”

     “It does,” he said. The waitress finally appeared at their table and took their order. Alex ordered a cheeseburger and fries, and Emily the plowman’s lunch. He also asked for another beer, having drunk most of his already.

     “When we were kids,” she started again after the waitress left, “I looked at you with such hero worship. You could do no wrong. I followed you everywhere.”

     “I remember,” he said. “You were like my shadow. We were practically inseparable. You even had to tag along when I had a sleepover at Jimmie Hill’s house. I was mortified.”

     “I had no shame,” she said. A hint of a grin flashed across her face. “Of course, I would have sleepovers with Jimmie when we were teens. Without you.”

     “What? You and Jimmie? But I thought…”

     “It was before Clive,” she said. “Jimmie was my first.”

      “That bastard,” Alex said. “He’s lucky I never knew. I would have killed him.”
 
     “You played with me, protected me, looked out for me,” she said. “That’s why I looked up to you so much. But I wasn’t the only one.”

     “What do you mean?” The waitress returned, placing their meals down on the table in front of them. Alex tucked into his burger, taking a healthy bite. Emily buttered a thick slice of bread and took a more demure nibble.

     “Dad looked up to you too,” she said. “At least it seemed like he did.”

     “That’s not true,” Alex said.

     “He always treated us differently…”

     “…He wouldn’t…”

     “…Don’t interrupt me, Alex. Dad always treated us differently,” she continued. “Not to say that I was treated poorly or ever felt unloved, but he obviously favoured you. I know all parents have their favourite. Oh, they would never admit it out loud, but they do.”

     “No they don’t,” Alex protested. He had only the one child and the notion seemed completely foreign to him. “Do they?”

      “Sure they do,” she responded. “Dolores,” she answered before he could ask. They shared a laugh.

     “Shit,” he swore. “I never realised you felt that way. I don’t even know what to say. I’m sorry.”

     “It’s okay. It really is. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about it lately, what with Dad’s failing health and all. For too long, I’ve let bitterness and jealousy get in the way of who I am. Did you know I used to get mad when Dad would have Lorne over for visits? Honestly, I’d get upset if Lorne visited Mom and Dad for March Break! How crazy is that? My kids were there all the time too. I know Dad and Lorne share a special bond, and I’m still jealous of that, but my kids never visit Dad on their own. I have to drag them or bribe them. They never go willingly. Lorne always has. Even now, he visits Dad every day.” Emily stopped, taking a kosher pickle off the platter.

     “I’m grateful for that,” Alex said in a low whisper. “I was such a shitty father. I’m glad Lorne had Dad to look up to.”

     “That’s just my point,” Emily said. “I think Dad did it for you.”

      “What do you mean?” “I asked him about it, after mom was gone. He said that you were lost and had to find your own way. He actually said that he knew that you weren’t meant for this time and that you were intended for bigger things.”

     Alex was perplexed. “He said the same thing to Genie. I have no idea what he’s talking about. He’s never said anything to me, and now…”

     “…And now he can’t,” Emily finished for him. Alex thought about his father. Brennan was barely alive anymore. After the heart attack, his lungs failed. The doctor’s inserted a breathing tube down his throat. It kept him alive but prevented him from speaking. His heart was badly damaged. He needed angioplasty but it was impossible for him to survive the surgery. The family had decided to make him comfortable and let him go. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was for the best. “Anyway, it got me thinking about his will. Are you listening?”

     Alex was snapped out of his reverie. “Sorry, I was just thinking about Dad.”

     “About the will,” she continued. “I’m willing to split it evenly, after Dad is gone.” She munched on a square of dry cheddar, letting her offer sink in.Alex was stunned into silence for several minutes. This was so uncharacteristically unlike his sister. He finished off his burger while he mulled her proposal in his head.

     “I appreciate that,” he said. “Really I do. But this is what Dad wants. It makes no sense to me, and it hurt at first, but I’ve had time to let it sink in. I’m okay with it. I want to honour his last wishes.

      Emily, clearly taken aback by his refusal of her generosity, was hushed into confused silence. She took another piece of cheese and chewed it; hoping time would wash away the crimson flush rising up her cheeks. Finally, in an effort to steer the conversation in another direction she asked. “I saw you and Genie the other day. You looked friendly. Is there a new spark there?”

     Alex stared at her with a bemused smile. “It was the first time I’d spoken with her in years,” he said. “It felt nice.” His honesty surprised even himself. It was the first time he’d said it aloud. In his heart of hearts though, he knew reconciliation was not possible. He could never forgive her. He could never forget about all the stolen kisses, or that another man shared her bed. That particular wound was just too deep.

     “I always liked her,” Emily said. “You two were good together. It was something else for me to be jealous of.”

      “We were good,” he admitted. “For a time anyway.”

     “She made you better,” Emily said. “I know you don’t see it, but she did. I don’t have that with Clive. If anything, he makes me worse. I don’t like who I’ve become.”

      “Emily,” Alex said. He stumbled for the right words. “It’s okay,” she said. “I’m working on it. He doesn’t control my happiness. I know that now.” A wry smile crossed her face. “He’s learning it too. I’m going on vacation soon. I’ve always wanted to see the Eiffel tower and eat Crepe Suzette at a quaint sidewalk café. I…doubt Clive will be coming.”

     “You should do it,” Alex said. “You deserve it.” Alex’s cell phone buzzed. It was a message from Lorne. Brennan was fading fast. It wouldn’t be long now. Alex paid their bill and they hurried to his rented car.

     Lorne had been discharged from the hospital several days ago. His jaw was still wired shut but the bruising and swelling had come down since. His face, now a jaundiced canvas of pale ochres and apricots, mostly looked his own now. They stood together, arm in arm, at Brennan’s bedside. Jake and Dolores were also there, whispering quietly to each other. Dolores was crying and Jake was trying to hold his sorrow in.

      Brennan lay in his bed. He was still connected to machines but the doctor said that they would remove the breathing tube once Alex and Emily arrived and let nature take its course. Lorne knew what that meant and pushed aside the guilt. He didn’t want Grampa to suffer anymore. Jeff assured him that Brennan wouldn’t feel anything, and that went a long way to comforting Lorne.

     “I miss him already,” Lorne said, his voice catching.

     “I know,” Jeff said. “He was a good man. He can hear you. Say goodbye.” Lorne edged closer to the bed, afraid to speak, afraid that just saying his goodbyes would make it happen, that it would be the reason for Brennan’s death. Jeff, seeing Lorne’s hesitation, moved in. He took Brennan’s hand. Brennan squeezed it feebly, opened his eyes, and nodded almost imperceptibly. “Brennan,” Jeff said in a clear, comforting voice. “I just want to thank you for raising Lorne into such an amazing man. He’s who he is because of you. I want you to know that. I’m so glad to have known you.” His voice broke and Lorne took Brennan’s hand.

     “Grampa? This is so hard. I don’t want to lose you. I love you so much. You loved me like your own son. You made it okay for me to be gay, to not be afraid of love. I wish you didn’t have to go.” Lorne was crying now, and tears quietly streamed down Brennan’s wizened face. The old man used what little strength he had left and pulled his grandson towards him, hugging him. For several minutes they held the embrace and Lorne knew that his Grampa was still there in that battered, dying husk.

     While Jake and Dolores said their goodbyes Jeff put his arm around his lover’s shoulders. “Are you ok?” Lorne smiled.

     “I’m fine.” There was a long pause. “He could always make everything better, even now. You know, when Dad left, I hated him. I was a teenaged gay boy without a father to guide me. I didn’t know what to do. I needed him and he was gone. Grampa raised me from then. He was the man I looked up to. Really, he taught me how to be a man. Through it all, he never talked poorly about my dad. He wouldn’t let me either. Dad had things he needed to work through and he would come back. I guess Grampa was right. Do you know what else he said? Grampa said that when Dad left, he asked him to look after me. He made him promise.”

     Alex and Emily arrived, clearly out of breath. They each took a place on either side of their father, holding his hands. Alex held the hand with the missing finger. They said goodbye and told him they loved him as the doctor removed the breathing tube. Brennan’s breathing became laboured and he gasped as he fought for each breath. Lorne wept because it looked so painful but Jeff held him closer, comforting him.

      “I…love…you…all,” he said in a slow, wheezy voice.

     “Oh Daddy,” Emily cried.

      “We love you too,” Alex said. Brennan removed his hand from Emily’s and held Alex’s with both. He looked at his son with pleading eyes. “Promise me…fix it…”

      “I will, Dad. I promise.” Brennan smiled and gasped one last time before closing his eyes. In a moment the machines that kept him alive, that sang their medley of life, grew quiet and he was gone. Now the only sounds that could be heard were the gentle sobs of the loved ones left behind.  
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 12/29/2015 6:00:51 PM
  • Andre Clemons commented on :
    1/3/2016 4:17:32 AM
    It was great to see Alex & Emily have a great conversation and for them to have some type of understanding between them. And...that ending. I'm not gonna lie, I totally teared up at the ending...
    • Wayne Purdy Thanks for the input. I was hoping to evoke sympathy from my readers but didn't know if I had the chops to pull it off. Glad it worked for you.
      1/4/2016 2:31:21 AM
  • Ryan Watt commented on :
    12/20/2015 8:52:34 PM
    Lots of great, touching moments in this one. My favorite of them would be Emily and Alex's lunch. Especially as it includes some hints as to what their Dad wants/knows ... Show More
    • Wayne Purdy Emily and Alex were long overdue for a heart to heart. That was my favourite moment as well
      12/21/2015 12:28:51 AM