20. Peter's Choices [IV]

Luckily, it was Phillip who came to his rescue, in place for the mumbled response that Peter was concocting.

“Peter is the only one who understands, Father. I know that, for you, love is a different substance than what it is in my eyes. Your love is a marriage that works to give a suitable male heir, and indeed, an heir who will follow in your footsteps exactly, one who will always walk in your shadow, or through the trough you dig out for him.

“My love, the kind of love that I see and feel in the true world around us, is a lasting bond, something that withstands rules and disagreements, and endures through even time. It can drive men to the ends of their wits for their woman, empower them to pluck every star from the sky just to impress her, and gives them the courage to give themselves, and their heritage, and their property, totally to her if she asks it of her man.

“It’s wonderful, Father. And that kind of love makes one think that they cannot survive without the supplier: the well that is within- or perhaps just is- the woman’s heart. Now, Aidelle-”

Dr. Costello scowled, and his forehead became a creased battleground, struck through with the many lines of age and of anguish too.

“Oh, not her again. You know, she was never good for you. Of that, I am sure.”

Peter wrung his hands together; Phillip strode onwards.

“I’m sorry if it offends you, Father, but I love Aidelle more than anything in this world. She means everything to me- and more than the selfish greed that money provides in abundance, to tempt those petty-minded people like Ryan. I know that he has ‘won you over’ somehow, and you think that Ryan cares for you the most, but really he only has eyes for your fortune; confront him and I’m sure that he won’t deny it. He may think that he can stand tall in any adversary, but he will back down when he knows that you can see through his disguise; he should no longer try if your trust has been lost.

“Nevertheless, I conclude that I have to get Aidelle back. No matter what. Peter understands this, even if he does not truly know how it feels- sorry, Peter; he wants so much to help, and he seems to be the only family member who is willing to see my point of view as well as their own.”

With a curt nod, Phillip indicated that he had finished this spoken display of raw emotion.

“Your mother cares,” Dr. Costello whispered, “Do go up to wish her well, before you leave. I’m sure that would make her health rise.”

“So… Does that mean…?” Peter said, with a child’s eager tone of excitement. The fair still awaited him.

Dr. Costello stood in his place, in an absolute stillness, for a moment of deep, earth-moving silence.

“Phillip, you may leave; your arm should not be too much, and I’ll admit that it has been dressed well so far. Peter, you’ll stay with me.”

Peter’s knees buckled heavily under him, and Phillip had to jump up to assist him, ironically, into the other of the vacated leather armchairs.

“Father, please…” Peter repeated, his voice strained with the urgency of one last hope.

Dr. Costello almost barked with sour laughter at the ridiculousness of it.

“I just can’t trust you again, Peter,” he said softly.

“But- but I’ve changed. You can trust me now.” Looking slightly green, Peter stretched himself up tall in the armchair.

Dr. Costello was silent. He paced his study back and forth, turning efficiently on his well-clad feet when he reached each opposite front corner of his tidy desk. Finally, he stopped dead, and turned his fierce gaze onto the brothers. His lips were tightly closed and his eyes were black holes under their magnifiers.

“Alright, Peter, I’ll consider giving you some leniency. On one condition. I want you to prove to me your loyalty.”

The End

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