“When we were in uni it was always the three of us, Maya, El Thrandon, and I.” He’s sitting with his elbows on his knees, knees spread wide, long fingered hands hanging heavily. He’s not looking at you. “It was a blast. The world seemed like a playground. After graduation, we stayed close. We had an interesting dynamic. Maya, low class, ambitious, ruthless; El, talented, charming, but too spoiled by his indulgent mother to reach for the stars; and me, a golden boy and a wanker. Do you recognise the pattern?”
You do. So, Phil, Killian, and you as John, El, and Maya 2.0. Except you are hardly ruthless.
He gives a low lifeless chuckle. “I know you think I’m a cold hearted bastard now, but you should have seen me then. When you are twenty five and perform your first stereotaxy, and afterwards Dr. Balinson, the father of modern neurosurgery, has awed tears in his eyes, calls you ‘laddie’ and shakes your hand, it tends to really make you swollen-headed.”
“Seven years after Graduation Maya proposed to me.” He leans back at the chair and rubs his eyes with the heels of his palms. “She explained all the advantages to me. How we were going to be perfect for each other, how we would be the golden couple of the medical community. I knew she was gay, but she said it was never about sex or romance. I could have any woman I wanted, but where would I find a partner like her? My oh so controlling mother was an ardent supporter of that idea. She invited Maya to our house, doted over her, they had tea in the sitting room by the fire.” He gives you a pointed look. You feel like throwing up.
“I refused. My exact words were “I don’t need a wedding band to choke me”. She took it well. We went on just as before, but we had sex occasionally. She said she had doubts in her sexuality, that I was convenient. I didn’t really care. And then she got pregnant.” He’s staring blankly at the ceiling.
“She planned everything well. She waited for five months to tell me. She even would not sleep with me for at least one week a month to imitate period breaks.” He clenches his jaw. “And then she presented me with the news and the ultrasound tape. Have you ever heard the heart of a five month old fetus, Wren? It is rapid, almost frantic, like they are fighting for their life.”
“I was furious, I was raging for hours, but that sound… I couldn’t forget that sound. She was saying she didn’t need anything from me, but we both knew that she already got what she wanted. I bought the ring, and it was announced. She lost him four weeks later.”
You feel tears running down your cheeks. Him.
“You were always around, Wren. You are hard to miss, that flaming mop of yours. On campus with Philip, in a coffee shop with them both, at breakfast at the mansion. I love my sister, but she is a fucking copy of our mother.” He fists his hands, and then seemingly coming back to reality he splays his fingers and stares at them. “What was I supposed to think when you crawled in my tent, Wren? That you decided to up the stakes and go for a bigger fish in the pond? Or when you were all comfy at the back seat with Philip less than a month after almost fucking me on that desk? You said I was aiming to be a fucking saviour for Philip, and maybe I was hoping to take you off his hands. But we also know that that is not all, do we not, Wren?” He shakes his head. “Don’t get me wrong, I doubted my assessment of you sometimes, a blind person wouldn’t, but you can see how a pattern seems to emerge. Once bitten, Wren. Do you know that Philip was discussing getting his grandmother’s ring out of the safe deposit?”
You blanche. You had been dating for only two weeks.
“He sounded rather certain. And I saw you looking at me at the dinner. You are not very good at hiding your desires, Wren.” You are starting to shake again. “But I reckon, me neither.” He gives another of those joyless chuckles of his. They feel like punches in your stomach. “Before trying to break my nose, my nephew had a lot to say… to yell into my face. Among other things how I’ve been looking at you like a piece of meat through that evening. And there I thought I was discreet.”
He closes his eyes for a second and then exhales sharply. “That was a bit longer than two minutes but I hope you will forgive me. I understand I was wrong, but I did have my reasons. And today…” He rubs his face again. “Damn it, Wren, was I hoping to sleep with you today? Yes, I was. The thought seems to always be at the back of my mind.” The smirk looks like a grimace from a toothache. “I would have preceded it with yet another of my fucking speeches, and terms and conditions discussions. But then you go and surprise me again…” He looks at you pretty much for the first time since he started talking. His eyes are pained. “I am wrong about you every single time. There’s something about you that just turns off half of my brain. And I’m sorry, I frightened you. I truly am.”
The pause stretches. He exhales and gets up.
“The room is paid for the next three days. You can stay for as long as you want.”
“What about the Rivendell?” You are surprised at yourself. Wow, either you are growing as a person, or he was right in his initial assessment of you, and you are a cold calculative bitch. He just poured his soul to you, and you care about the presentation. Or maybe that is a suppression defence mechanism.
He was picking up his jacket from the back of the chair, and he stops.
“I suggest you come up with a good excuse why you cannot go. Let her set someone else up. I was planning to go to Elwig that weekend, anyway. Our meeting is long overdue.” He puts the jacket on. “He hates my guts. As much as Dr. Saint Elwig can hate anyone. We were in the same year in the medschool, but he was too moral to associate with us, bastards. He has this surreal glow around him, have you noticed? And also, I seduced his girlfriend during the second year.” He’s looking at you as if taunting you with his immorality, asking you to judge him.
You don’t. You are too tired, and you are the last person to talk.
“Let me deal with it, and have some rest, Wren. You are obviously overworking yourself.”
He picks up his keys from a dresser.
“Goodbye, Wren.” You nod.
And then you are alone in the room. You curl up in a ball under the comforter. You need to think.