2:00 PM Day One
As Francine trudged up the lawn, she noticed Eagen standing outside on the covered lanai. Oh boy, what’d we do now, she wondered. He never waits up unless something is wrong. “I can only imagine what his gripe will be about this time. Seems like he’s becoming grouchier the older her gets,” she muttered to herself.
“Where’s Orion?” he asked when she was finally in earshot.
“Oh, he’s out there looking for an animal he thought he heard. You know how he is, Eagen,” she lightheartedly waved at him. “That inquisitive mind tends to get the best of him some times. He’ll be up shortly though to get his afternoon snack.” She turned back, scanning the expansive forest landscape. At least he better be, or it’ll be me that’ll catch Eagen’s wrath. She opened the heavy door and headed inside. “Come on. I’ll make you a snack too.”
They made their way into the kitchen. Orion’s father, Bynam, had always envisioned his kitchen as being an inviting space where people could gather and feel completely comfortable, so it contained every luxury. Francine was a big fan of this fact as she was a sucker for luxuries, something she didn’t have a whole lot of growing up. She watched Eagen run his fingers over the fleur de lis engravings in the small glass table.
“You remember when Bynam purchased this at that small boutique in Paris?” he asked. “It was right after we moved in here.”
“I do. And he got those four chairs in Rome. He certainly concerned himself with getting the best money could buy.” Personally, I would’ve rather spent the money on a new digital sewing machine, but that’s just me.
She pulled out a fresh loaf of bread from the stainless steel refrigerator, and two jars; one peanut butter and the other grape jelly.
“Cold PB and J?” Eagen asked.
With a nod, she said, “Just how he likes it.”
After grabbing a sterling silver butter knife and a clear glass plate, she lathered the peanut butter onto one piece of the bread. She could feel Eagan’s cold eyes upon her. Trying not to pay too much attention to his burning gaze, she spun around, and in one swift move had opened the refrigerator door, put the jars of peanut butter and jelly away, and shut the door back. A magnet hanging on the fridge caught her attention; it was a picture of Bynam hugging Orion from behind. Suddenly, the painful memories began to overtake her. She laid the knife down, allowing her mind to be ferried off to a different place and time…
As if it were moments ago instead of weeks, the memory of standing in the bedroom doorway behind a stunned Orion on the day his father died burst into her mind. She could almost still smell the sweet aroma of the freshly cut daisies sitting atop the stairs. Even though it was something she’d been warned about long ago, she still couldn’t fight the dreaded feeling of not being completely prepared for the particularly agonizing events of that day.
Could this be the day he warned us was coming? Her mind raced. Is this it? I know he said it was going to happen…but today?
She could feel her heart sink deeper into her chest with every tear rolling down Orion’s cheek as he sobbed on the bedside. Bynam’s watery eyes momentarily locked with hers, and then raise his hand, with every bit of energy he had left, and rub the boy’s head one last time. The heartbreaking scene sent a gut-wrenching emotion to her core.
His last words had been, “I love you so much, son.”
Orion screamed, “No Dad! No! No! Dad! Please!” He sobbed, laying his head gently onto his father’s chest. He tightly gripped the tousled sheets in his clenched fists.
Francine slowly went to him and delicately eased onto the bed, laying her hand on his shoulder, whispering, “It’s okay, sweetie. It’s okay. Everything will be alright.”
She saw something take a hold of the boy in that moment; a bitter coldness had crept into Orion’s spirit as he gazed at his dead father.
“I’m gonna find who did this to you,” he said, pounding the mattress. “I’m gonna find the person responsible…and I’ll make sure they pay! I’ll make them pay for what they did you. I promise you I will.”
She firmly grabbed his shoulders and hoisted him up, escorting him out. He abruptly stopped and turned back again, his tears not strong enough to temper the fire in his eyes. Wiping them away, he said, “We’ll find who did this.”
She lead him down the hallway back to his room, rubbing his shoulders along the way, only stopping to watch him collapse on his bed and cry into his pillow.
Poor boy, if he only knew. She quietly closed the bedroom door.
As quickly as the memory came, it faded away. Eagen still stood there in the kitchen, but his strong gaze had changed to one of sympathy and remorse.
“I know darling,” he somberly spoke. “It’s hard, and I can’t guarantee it’ll get any better, but we’ll press on. We have to. It’s up to us to make sure he knows everything.”
“Do you think he’s ready to be told everything?”
“I believe he needs to know now more than ever,” he replied.
“Have you told him anything yet? Have you told him about…his family?”
“I haven’t, but Bynam told him some things when he was younger, remember? I highly doubt he recalls anything, though. It was a long time ago.”
She cocked her head. “You trying to say you haven’t had the opportunity to explain?”
“No, Francine,” he answered more sternly, only to then relax his stare upon collecting himself. “I’m still trying to figure out the best way to tell him. I started to, but—”
“What do you mean you started to?”
Eagen’s eyes narrowed, but remained fixated on the woman. He couldn’t believe she actually questioned him, especially about this issue. She didn’t have the burden placed upon her, the burden of fulfilling a sacred promise.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, he thought. To tell someone the family secrets…to tell him his whole life has been a lie.
He tensely chewed on his lower lip. “I told him his father was one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. And he would’ve done anything for anyone, just for the sake of helping them out…that was just the kind of person he was.” He nodded his head as if agreeing with himself. “When he asked me how long I knew Bynam, I thought that could’ve been the opportunity to explain. I told him I was present at his father’s birth, as I had been present at his. But then he asked me, ‘Were you friends with my grandfather?’”
Eagen looked up from his blank stare and the pain was evident. He stood up straight, fighting off the emotions as he placed his hands into his pockets and cleared his throat.
“I knew at that particular moment, he wasn’t ready. It was too soon…so I simply told him we were best of friends and left it at that.”
“Eagen, what did you say after we left the room that day?” Francine arched her brow.
He recalled his last promise to Bynam. The memory took him back to the room where the man breathed his last breath…
After Francine escorted Orion out, Eagen stayed behind, rubbing his beard as his eyes darted through the bedroom window to the forest outside; this was typical for Eagen, especially under less severe circumstances. He kept wondering if he’d done all he could to keep Bynam alive, or perhaps if he’d done something different, then maybe, just maybe, he’d still be here.
“And who exactly are you?” Eagen said furrowing his brow as he watched an unexpected person traipse through the woods. “You shouldn’t be here.”
After a few moments of watching the person in the forest, he looked back at the lifeless body in the bed. He grabbed hold of the covers and slowly pulled them up over the body.
Leaning close, he whispered, “You were right, Bynam. You always knew this would happen. I’ll keep my promise to you. I’ll make sure you’re taken care of…and that Orion knows everything. Don’t worry about us…we’ll be fine.”
Shaking off the memory, he peered up at Francine. “I silently swore on my life to protect Orion from the haunting secrets about to threaten his life.”