Phillip made his way carefully down the back staircase.
The two men had no clue as to where their father (and possibly, Ryan) would be, but they prepared themselves for a scolding no matter where it might be. It was like waiting for a thunderstorm, complete with mind-numbing, brilliant white lightning bolts that has hidden itself behind a cluster of clouds or some low-lying mist.
Phillip sighed, feeling numb everywhere. On top of the dull throb that came from a broken nose and arm, to Phillip, it felt like his heart had stopped; it had dulled too. He laid his left hand on top of the left of his chest (risking, for a minute, the chance he might lose his grip or balance and then tumble down the steps) and counted the steady pulse that it seemed to be, impossibly, emitting. One, two, three, four, he counted, feeling the pulse of the music of life, repeating over and over in an unfailing march.
Yet, to Phillip, it didn’t seem right. Why should he go on living, when Aidelle was stranded somewhere incomprehensible?
He pushed the heavy thoughts out of his mind, and removed his hand from the outside of his shirt. Even so, every step felt like lead, and Peter had already reached the bottom step, whilst Phillip himself was barely past the middle step.
Peter looked upwards to his brother, and smiled encouragingly. Phillip returned the smile, grateful, but also embarrassed by the young man’s pity. But without it there would not be a Phillip walking- albeit uneasily- down to Peter’s level.
On reaching Peter, Phillip noticed the boy cast a look uneasily around, before he pushed open the dining room door, and led Phillip through the empty room. As well as the excess pity, Phillip felt that he did not require any guidance either, but he would not say anything unnecessary; he wouldn’t risk offending or alienating the last friend he might have.
The entrance to the house was empty too. The sounds of busy servants bustling through the day had long stopped being so much as an echo. Guests would not be permitted at this late time of the day, and none would want to come from outside gloom into this.
The weather had placed a still, cold hand on the house; not even the grandfather clock dared to tick at volume.
“Did you say that Father might be in his study? We should head there first,” Phillip said to the deafening silence.
With a curt nod, Peter led Phillip through the mansion. The former really wasn’t looking forward to the ‘confrontation’. The only thing that was stopping him from running away was his love for his dear brother. Peter knew that if he left at that time, as strong as Phillip might have tried to be, he could just as easily cause himself more harm, this time on purpose. Besides, family was important too.
As they walked past the library, and the blue drawing room, and the music room, the silence dragged on, anticipating the next dreadful move. Peter fidgeted as he walked, rubbing his hands together, as though it were just physical warmth that the house was missing.
Finally, the men arrived outside Dr. Costello’s study. Phillip watched his brother’s nervousness, and so, stepped out beside him.
“It’s okay, Peter,” he said bravely, though his voice lacked the true volume as proof, “I’ll be here and always on your side.”
Together, they knocked and obediently pushed open the broad walnut door. The study was a place of equal light proportions to dark, and everywhere an even and steady haze of caramel walnut. Phillip even noticed that the scent that hung in the air was not that of cigars (although popular, Dr. Costello did not touch the ‘health-damaging’ smoke-sticks), but a fresh, and rather cleansing, smell of sirop de noir. It was almost fruity even.
Here was their father’s own private amazon of order, and neither of the sons had stepped a toe in the tight room more than three times in their lives. As children, it was a common, retold command, from both parents, that the study was a ‘no-go area’, it had been, and always would be, out-of-bounds.
Dr. Costello himself was sitting at his desk (also made of a light walnut) writing away quickly in his fluid, complex script. His green feather quill quivered and snapped back every time it reached the end of a line, just like an analogue typewriter.
Without looking up, Dr. Costello said:
“Phillip. Peter. Sit.” And gave an indication, with his left hand that he was not using to write, of the two soft, mottled armchairs. Phillip sat, and Peter was on the verge of doing so, but some strange thing compelled him to remain standing. Phillip shot his brother a warning glare.
“Father…” Peter began, “There are some matters that you need to address.”