“Is it done?” Phillip asked quietly.
Looking up, Peter nodded. He gingerly touched his sore cheek, now lightly reddened by the touch of Beth and his father’s smack.
“It…wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be,” he muttered.
“No?” Phillip carefully studied his brother, “And why might that be?”
Of course, Phillip knew, as he had always known, about the true type of the affections between his brother and the maid, but, this time, he wanted Peter to think for himself. And really think this time.
Peter watched the thin second hand of the ornate clock above them tick round, caressing the ivory marble numbers every five seconds. It was very precise time. The hour was ten, and the minute was almost exactly a quarter to the next hour: eleven o clock. The date looked as though it was stamped below, but was actually part of a little marble ‘flip-chart’ that rotated with the rising sun; and he read that the date displayed was the 28th of August.
Peter was bored, frustrated, angry. He didn’t want to have the conversation, but, like everything recently, it was something that he could no longer avoid.
Peter squinted his eyes at the clock, wondering whether, if he tried hard enough, it would morph into something else, and with it, morph a new reality better than that which he was in. Finally, he decided that there was nothing he could do, and that it was best to take a leaf out of Phillip’s book.
Now what would be the sort of philosophical sentence that Phillip would say about love?
“Just suppose that this thing called ‘love’ is merely chemicals. The affectionate ties are formed, and continually strived for, by the mind, and they are, perhaps, purely psychological at first. Over time, and the actions of platonic care, a truer affection grows… Oh, you’re presuming that I didn’t know her enough.”
“Maybe you didn’t know yourself either,” Phillip replied, also looking up to the clock and the time that was slipping away above their reach, “Some love is fine like gold dust. You see what is on the outside, and you rejoice in the simple pleasures of each meeting. But, you do not take time more slowly, or receive the hardship that true lovers do. True love is the rock on which a man must build his hopes and dreams, and his foundation into society; to hope for riches or glory is fleeting, but to hope to hold your beloved in your arms once again is a feeling that no-one can douse; not even the sturdiest rules can make true love conform, and it shall never be forced to back down in an argument, doing so only if the opposite is the very best for both parties and the growth of the loving.”
“So, you’re basically saying (in that eloquent, yet rather arrogant voice of yours) that I wasted my time with Beth?” Peter pouted, pointing the facts out bluntly in his darkening mood. He didn’t like people questioning his actions, especially after the week of hell that he had just had. In any case, he knew when his fight was over.
“Youth jumps at first love and is astounded by the prospect of a higher status from a relationship. You will find someone much better suited for you.”
“I’ve stopped believing in love!” cried Peter, throwing his hands up into the air. He turned away from Phillip as the latter began to try to offer his kind words.
“Okay then,” Phillip said mainly to himself, giving Peter another minute of silent contemplation.
After the minute was up, and the wall clock had firmly ticked past the shining digit number nine, Phillip gave up waiting for his brother to compose himself. What was done, was done. And only time would be able to reverse the past now.
“So, you’ve been ‘freed’, and we can go wherever we want. Where now, genius?” he decided to remark to the cold shoulder that Peter was still displaying.
Peter took a deep breath and turned back to face Phillip. He had not shed a single tear, but finally the last five years of war had caught up with him; his face showed it all by creating sets of long lines, rather like those of his father; a living map of sorrow that had been pressed onto him and ironed to completion over the last couple of days.
“Your ruined home,” Peter replied almost instantaneously, looking towards Phillip, but staring right through his brother, “There must be something that I missed before.”
“But are you sure?” Phillip sighed, “Last time you almost collapsed, and we ended up face-to-face with a glimmer of the past. I watched Aidelle slip right through my fingers all over again. I don’t want things to end that badly a second time.”
“Yes, but, Phillip, you need to go back there. You need to take one more chance. And you need to confront whatever it is that you want to hide. I’ve done my part.”
“I suppose that I owe you, don’t I? Peter, I promise that, one day, I’ll be able to pay you back in a way that you truly deserve.”
He stroked the smashed bones in his nose again, thinking. How much worse could it get?
“But, for now, I’ll humour you. Let’s go.”
He walked to the wide front door, stopping only when he was sure that Peter was not following.
“Are you coming?”
”Humour me?” Peter spluttered, before following his brother out into the night.