Benjamin tiptoed up the marble stairway, the main stairwell of the mansion, and therefore the most gilded. He reached his mother’s room and knocked lightly twice in quick succession.
“Who is it?” Aimee’s quiet voice called from the other side of the door.
“It’s me, Benjamin,” Benjamin replied, “And don’t worry, I’m on your side.”
The door swung open with a soft ‘squeak’ and Aimee’s rosy face peeped out nervously. Her eyes warmed through as soon as she spotted Benjamin. On seeing her husband, she broke into a grin, and greeted him with a hug.
“How’s things downstairs?” Aimee whispered, quickly looking behind her, into the room.
“Not sorting themselves out… What about mother? How is she?”
“Come in,” Aimee said, before leading Benjamin into Mrs. Costello’s room.
Most of the house was carpeted, but Mrs. Costello had made sure that she had grape-coloured plush under her own feet. This carpet was a long, thick purple shag that soaked right into shoeless feet, because, after many years of wearing heeled, two-inch-high, shoes, Mrs. Costello’s feet deserved (and she would have insisted upon it either way) to be pampered. Mrs. Costello herself was sitting regally on a gold and beige sofa in front of her poster bed, which was made of a dark wood, and fitted in with the décor of the room precisely, just as the younger Mrs. Costello would have had it.
She smiled sadly as she saw Benjamin walk in.
“How is dinner going, dear?” She asked quietly, her voice sounding very sore.
Benjamin paused; in his heart he knew that he should keep everything that he had learnt, and everything he had witnessed in the dining hall where it belonged: away from her. He didn’t want to crack her gentle heart any further. A man cannot lie to his mother forever though.
Mrs. Costello visibly paled.
“I hope...” she muttered, as her voice trembled, “I hope that I was not the cause to halt everything.”
“Not at all, Mother… The meal kind of fell apart anyway.”
Aimee guided Mrs. Costello’s arm and helped her out of the sofa.
“It’s a mess, isn't it?” The latter continued to remark.
“How are you?” Benjamin responded, changing the subject as to suit him.
“I’ve been better. I just wish things were back as they used to be, before the war. What’s happened to my little family? It was so cosy, but…it’s crumbing. That breaks my heart…” She sighed.
Aimee rubbed a hand across Mrs. Costello’s arm and scowled.
“I don’t want to blame Phillip, but…he did start this.”
“He’s not mad!” Mrs. Costello cried again, and she shuffled over to the basin placed across from the sofa and bed. Her ringed fingers shook as she caressed the icy water and pushed it onto her face, dainty still, but wrinkled severely like a piece of paper; past its time.
Mrs. Costello shivered as she watched herself. Her son walked across to the powder table and mirror, and put a hand on her shoulder as they stood watching their reflections.
It was an almost perfect image, Aimee thought to herself as she watched from a distance.
The fine, strong and prominent features of the two of them shone through identically; Raven black hair and eyes that gleamed like sky sapphires; Benjamin had shot up and stopped to be a head taller than his mother, and had fewer lines framing his face, but the curve of his caring face was shared with that of the older woman’s.
They were a complete mother-and-son image; he stood, supportively, with his hand on Mrs. Costello’s prim shoulder; her hands were folded and clutched to her chest, playing with the small opal necklace that dangled to there. It contained her heart; it contained the pictures of all her sons, painted by an expert of his field and a friend to the family since before the Costellos were wed. Most of all, Aimee saw that image to be one of true respect, the type of respect that the rest of the family were lacking towards Phillip.
Mousy-haired Aimee watched from a distance, jealousy pushing at her heart; it was agony to see how close the mother and son were, but Aimee told herself that Benjamin was hers forever, and trusted in the true feelings that she held inside her, not the false trap of anger or jealousy. Benjamin was, after all, just comforting his mother and taking away a part of her pain wordlessly, as his actions were worth a thousand words.
She finally understood another point of view.
“What do you think then, Mrs. Costello?”
Mrs. Costello broke the image and walked away, to the window, as Benjamin and Aimee followed with their eyes.
Mrs. Costello’s room was situated on the west side of the house, and so saw a different view from that of the library: the pebble path that was a mixed flavour of colours, and that led to the gold iron gate; the pale stone steps that occasionally appeared to sprout out of the long, stretching lawn; the blooming orange trees that led off out of view to create the beginnings of the Costello family’s arboretum.
Mrs. Costello was grateful for all she had, but now it was fading away, and her heart was failing to cope with it all.
“His mind is full of trauma. And he’ll need time to clear it all out. The others just…don’t see. They look to him with eyes shut.”
“Yes…” Benjamin sighed.
“But how will we pull everything back together?” Aimee muttered as she walked over and clutched gently at her husband’s arm.
“It all seems hopeless. We all used to be so close, but now…now, I wish my family weren’t so divided…”
“Phillip is the source of the problem,” Aimee pointed out.
“Yes, but behind that are other problems,” Benjamin didn’t care to elaborate and hurt his mother more, “Even so, I shall go and have a word with Phillip. I hope I can sort him out soon.”