Family Secrets: Part Four
So it had finally come out. I had been able to maintain my act of senility for nearly two years, but I could not restrain myself from confronting him. It appalled me. I thought I had raised him better. I thought I had raised all of my children better. Listening to them tonight... simply heart-wrenching.
My family was in shambles. What would my father say? A con man swindling his own sister, a woman so fake she can’t even feel compassion towards her sick sister, and me. I was no better—pretending to be senile to my own children. It was despicable. No wonder they acted this way.
The foolish maid served us our dessert, a flambéed fruit dish. There was something inherently strange, I realized, to be eating such a sweet dessert while listening to tales of deceit and trickery. It disgusted me, and I could not get more than a few bites down before pushing it away.
Swin, however, was quickly digging into his portion in between telling us his story. I paid no attention to him, though, and focused on the boy. Fallan was quietly taking in Swin’s story, slowly eating his dessert. He didn’t notice me watching him, for what seemed the first time tonight. It surprised me. There were quite a few moments earlier in the evening where I felt as if he suspected my secret. It threw me off; I was used to being only with my oblivious daughter.
Fallan interested me. His separation from the rest of the family seemed to provide him with a level head, something none of the rest of us possessed. His description of his mother showed he had true feelings for Calliope, and his personality wasn’t overbearing or tedious. He seemed to be growing up quite nicely. I admired him.
“And so, I’ve spent the past year and half traveling the globe,” Swin said. “Pulling an odd job here and there.”
My anger returned as I refocused on my son. “An odd job here and there?” I spat. “Don’t continue to lie to us, Swin, especially after I just told you that I have been following you. Tell Calydia what odd job you’ve really been trying to pull.”
He stared at me again, betraying no emotions. I returned the gaze, and saw a faint glimmer of remorse in his eye. Surprised, I looked away, shifting my gaze to Calydia instead, who still wore a troubled expression. Both of my children’s expressions seemed genuine, for once.
“I... I’ve been trying to pull a heist on the Altadorian Hall of Heroes,” he said after a minute of silence. “But we got caught. I’ve been behind bars for most of the time.”
Calydia frowned. “And why did you really come here?”
“To gain some funds to try again with a different crew.”
Calydia looked away, and I saw her wipe a tear from her eyes. Swin sat silently, and after a moment, a new voice piped up.
“Why were you acting, Grandfather?” Fallan asked, eyes staring intently at me.
I sighed. He was right. I couldn’t attack my own son without having to confess my own secret. “That... is a very good question. I’m not even certain myself.
“I suppose it had something to do with the current state of the family affairs. Your mother had not spoken to any of us for nearly three years at that point. Swin had announced his trip, and at this Calydia had become rather upset. And I think part of me just... stepped away. Perhaps I could not bear to think of it at the time.
“After a few days I think I realized what was happening. But I never made any conscious effort to ‘step back,’ if you will. It was too easy to remain acting. And to be honest, I rather liked it—no longer did I have to worry about petty things. Calydia was more than willing to take responsibility. But I see now that that was perhaps a bad thing.”
They simply sat and stared, the silence broken every so often by the fake sobs Calydia maintained. Swin still looked rather beat up after his con had been revealed, but I sat rigidly, my eyes directed to my grandson. He returned the gaze just as intently. He was quite remarkably like me, I realized.
“And why did you invite me here?” he asked after my explanation had sunk in.
At this I smiled halfheartedly. “Just as I have been keeping tabs on Swin here, I have been regularly checking up on Calliope. It is rather unfortunate that she is ill. And so I invited you here in the hopes that we’d be able to work something out to improve her health. I knew she would not speak with me, but I thought, correctly so, that you might be enticed to come to a dinner were Calydia to invite you.”
Fallan seemed to brighten up considerably at this. It warmed my heart to see him react so favorably. “Excellent. We can discuss the details later.”
The room fell silent as we all drifted into our own thoughts. It had been quite a trying night for all of us. As I looked from Fallan, to Swin, to Calydia, I searched for some redemption in our unhappy time together.
And as my eyes rested on Calydia, I found a sight that surprised me more than anything thus far. My daughter was crying, genuinely, silently crying. There were no small sobs or wails to hide her true careless emotion. Calydia’s guard was down. For the first time in perhaps my entire life, I was seeing my daughter’s true feelings.
“I have done so poorly,” she said, clearly and steadily. She let the tears roll freely. “With this dinner, with Swin, with Fallan, with you, Father. Everything tonight was made worse through my doing. I had no idea, no idea at all, about anyone but myself. And Calliope. It was my fault, my fault. I pushed her away. And now she is sick. And I had no idea.”
“There is still time to fix that, Calydia,” I replied. “There is still time to fix all of this.”
She nodded. “I will go to her. Tomorrow. No, tonight. It cannot wait any longer.” She stood. “If you’ll excuse me, Father.”
I gave my approval, and she rushed out of the room. I smiled slightly. She could be dramatic at times, but sometimes a little drama was alright. It lit a much-needed fire in her soul.
Swin stared dejectedly at his plate. When Calydia had left the room, he glanced up at me. “Well? What are you going to do with me?”
“What do you think?” I replied. “What do you believe is the right thing to do?”
He frowned. “I... I just don’t know. I don’t know what I was thinking, coming back here. Maybe I should just leave.”
“Perhaps,” I said pensively. “Though I wonder if that would be very effective. We’ve witnessed here tonight how stressing a separation in the family really can be.”
“I cannot think of anything else. I am so deeply ashamed, Father. To be caught by my own family....”
I winced. Had he really missed what had transpired? Each one of us had experienced our façade collapse dramatically during the course of the dinner, and I liked to think that we had each learned from it. But apparently not. I supposed my son would need more time to discover that.
I sighed. “Very well, Swin. If that is what you think is best for everyone.”
He stood and stared at me, his eyes cold and unhappy. “Goodbye, Father. I do hope you and Calydia will not take this too hard.”
“No, I should think not. Goodbye, Swin. Good luck on your travels.”
And with that, he left the dining room, and the house. Now only Fallan remained.
“Are you really letting him leave?” he asked dubiously.
A feeble smile returned. “No, I think both of us understood that I’d continue to keep tabs on him,” I replied. “To be honest, I think he prefers it. This way he’ll have a minor connection to home at all times.”
Fallan smiled. “I like you, Grandfather.”
I returned the sentiment. “Now, Fallan, there is one more thing I’d like to discuss. My connection with your mother has commented on some of the things he’s heard you say. Some life aspirations you’ve had?”
He blushed. “Oh, really? Like what?”
“I understand you’re interested in joining the guild Calydia spoke about earlier, among other things.”
He nodded. “I... I want to be secure. To not have to worry about the small things that have caused anxiety lately.”
“A very fine aspiration indeed. And one that I’d be willing to help you out with.”
He brightened up. It was so evident in his eyes, so clear. I could see that this was not just an aspiration for him, but a dream. A life’s wish. “Thank you, Grandfather.”
“Of course, my boy.”
He stood as well. “If you’ll excuse me. I’d really like to see my mother now.”
I smiled. “Yes, certainly. And give her my best. I daresay I’ll be seeing her more often myself. But right now... right now I am quite tired. It has been an exhausting evening.”
He thanked me, and exited the room like his uncle and aunt. Alone once more, I sat at the head of the table for a moment longer considering the night’s events. Then I began to clear the table.