I was standing in my bedroom, adjusting my hairpiece in the mirror. It was a new look that I would definitely have to adjust to overtime, but it wasn't completely terrible; I could get used to seeing a full head of grey whenever I looked at myself.
The door opened a moment later, interrupting my moment of preening and adjusting my appearance, and I saw my son and daughter-in-law accompanied by Nadir.
"Who are you and what have you done with my Papa?" Gustave demanded, making a hesitant gun out of his hand like when he played as a child. However, his comment seemingly was not all that entertaining to his wife, as it was swiftly followed by the sound of the back of Lara's hand making contact with his arm.
"Be nice," she chided.
"Oh, you know it's me," I pointed out as I turned away from the mirror to look at them.
Gustave rubbed his arm and looked back to his wife to defend himself: "See? He knows I do it all in good fun."
"I would hope you are. This is a big adjustment for me too, you know; I've been used to looking at dark hair all my life and now it's gone," I replied, looking back to the mirror and making sure the wig was straight for the millionth time.
"At least you can go back to it if you want," my friend pointed out as he ran his hand over his own full head of silver hair. "You aren't stuck with the grey like I am."
"I do appreciate that liberty, I will admit. I've come to like the grey, though."
My son took that opportunity to call attention to the obvious: "You two are ridiculous. You know that, right?"
"Yes, we have come to appreciate that fact," Nadir confirmed.
I nodded in agreement, then added, "It is a fun sort of game."
"That it is," Nadir said before making the gesture we had come up with for when my mask was crooked and I needed to fix it; a simple wave of his pointer finger while he held his hand down by his side to keep it inconspicuous.
"Now, if the other married couple could break up this beautiful moment," Lara chimed in with a small giggle, "I could use a hand here with Christine's bags."
I could not help but roll my eyes at a reminder of the running joke about Nadir and me I. Instead of getting too far into it, I looked over to my friend and made sure he wasn't going to say anything before I stated, "We aren't a married couple, although you two try to insist upon it," then grabbed the baby bags that were still in my room after caring for my granddaughter for the day and started to shoo everyone out into the hall.
"Well, you act like one," Gustave said as we made our way down the stairs.
"We don't try to. Now, let me see the little one," Nadir requested as he looked over at Lara, who had just rejoined us after getting Christine from her bassinet, which resided in Gustave's former bedroom.
Lara passed her over, and the moment Christine was in his arms, she reached up at his face and exclaimed "Deer!" at the top of his lungs. I could only imagine it was due to the difficult pronunciation of that name for an eight-month-old baby, but it was still one of the greatest things I had ever heard.
"Yes, my angel! That is Deer!" I told her in between everyone's laughter. I pressed a kiss to the top of her head before looking back at my friend, who appeared to still be processing what granddaughter had just said. "Until one of us dies, that nickname is never going away, Deer."
We had all congregated in the kitchen after that and sat down while Christine had her breakfast in her high chair, but after a while, the attempt to feed her had both Gustave and Lara in a state of both frustration and worry. She was a wonderful baby, but when it came to the transition from her mother's milk to other foods, she decided to put up quite the fuss. Lara was exasperated and eventually gave in to trying to give her a mashed banana in hopes that the sweetness would compel her to eat.
Nadir and I had been watching from the sidelines, taking a backseat to let the new parents take the lead, but eventually, it came to the point where I saw that Gustave was starting to get anxious over the fact that she wasn't eating, so I decided to step in and make an attempt at it. I took the bowl from my son and tried to make Christine laugh by saying whatever came to mind in a variety of entertaining tones. It seemed to work, and when her mouth was open, I was able to insert a spoonful of food with little protest.
When the bowl was empty, I looked over to my son to find his jaw slack, seemingly in awe of what I was able to accomplish. "What is your secret?" he asked.
"I don't quite know. I never did this with you," I admitted. It was rather shocking to me as well, considering that I had never done that before; I hadn't even fed Lizzie when she was a baby.
Once I had finished wiping off Christine's face, I took her into my arms and she decided that she was fully invested in seeing my mask up close. "Nonno," she cooed at me as she reached towards my face.
I Initially flinched away out of reflex, but when I looked at her face, I knew that I could not say no to her as easily as I could others when it came to my mask, so I resolved to allow her to have her hand resting on it as she felt around my different facial features. I had almost become comfortable with the position when suddenly, I felt a hard pull on the back of my head and heard my mask hit the ground.
I was paralyzed where I stood. I couldn't take my eyes off of my granddaughter out of fear that the similarities to her father would cause her to start crying. It was in those minutes that felt like hours that I ran through every detail of Gustave's face the day he had seen me for the first time and I was realizing very quickly how real the possibility was that I might receive an encore to that nightmare. In my peripheral vision, I saw Lara clamp her hand over her mouth and Nadir jump from his chair. I heard Gustave gasp before I noticed him start to cautiously make his way over to me, as he clearly knew that he might have to take her from me so that I could put my mask back on.
But instead of crying and screaming like I had feared she would, my angel did something that practically brought the room to tears.
She smiled at me.
She began patting the once-covered side of my face, her smile widening as she made small giggling noises. "Nonno," she said again.
The lump in my throat was hard to ignore as I responded to her: "Yes, my beautiful angel. Nonno is right here." I didn't know what else to do, so I simply held her a little tighter than before. She had made her way onto the short list of people who, upon seeing my face, were not afraid, though she was easily my favourite name on it.
When we arrived at the house, I could already hear the sounds of muffled laughter, telling me that the others had beaten us there. We would have arrived sooner had it not been for our extra payload in tow. Lara opened the door to her home and Gustave was standing behind her with my granddaughter in his arms, who had already gotten so much bigger than the last time I had seen her. Gustave, on the other hand, looked like he had added five years to his life in the few short months he had been a father.
"I take it you haven't slept," I said, unable to withhold some sort of comment.
Gustave let out a small laugh as he readjusted Christine in his arms while Lara and Marguerite left for the kitchen. "What was your first clue? My overall body language or the bags under my eyes that could carry a week's worth of groceries?"
"Welcome to fatherhood. For the first little while, you're going to realize just how busy a human being can truly be," I explained as I thought back to when my children were newborns and I had no idea what I had truly been in for.
"Add onto the fact that Christine has yet to sleep properly. The little angel inherited a set of lungs from her father's side of the family," Erik added as he came into the foyer from the living room.
I then realized how concerning that statement was. "Does she ever sleep through the night, Gustave?" I inquired.
"Only if we're lucky," Gustave replied. "Lara and I have been taking turns. I probably got more sleep when I was in the military, though."
"Tell me you take more of the night feeds and shifts, if you can call them that."
"I try to," he said with a small shrug of his shoulders.
"Well, I can imagine you're not much help if she's hungry," Erik chimed in and the three of us let out quiet laughs; we had to be careful to not disturb the baby.
I noticed that, once again, Gustave was adjusting his hold on his daughter; the poor boy was exhausted and his arms were showing it. "Alright, enough chatter. Let me see the little one; you look like your arms need a break and I would love to see her," I insisted.
He didn't have much of a heart to argue as he passed her over to me. I remembered how much of a toll a sleeping baby took on your arms, though I welcomed feeling it again; it had been so long since I had been able to hold a child like that in my arms.
"She's asleep," Gustave said. "So she shouldn't be much trouble for you."
"Surreal, isn't it? We're grandfathers," I said to Erik as I shifted my weight from side to side in hopes of keeping her asleep. Her little balled fists roamed my chest, almost as if she was seeing me through them.
"I still don't believe it," Erik responded, looking down at Christine with a smile. "It only seems like it was yesterday when Gustave was a boy running about in the backyard, not a care in the world."
"And not long ago, Lara was afraid of the dark and would come running to us at the slightest noise from outside," I added. I could hear my wife and daughter busy in the kitchen laughing and talking and I remembered a time when I only had to listen across the dinner table to hear it.
"If you don't mind, I am going to need the full story of Lara as a child being afraid of the dark," Gustave interjected; I couldn't tell if he was joking or not. "She makes fun of me for being afraid of spiders all the time and I need leverage."
Erik and I looked at each other and let out a small chuckle. "And now they're parents, just as we are. Terrifying," I said.
"Oh, certainly. Our years seem to be catching up with us, Philippe."
"Don't even start with that. The hair shows it on both of us," I replied pointing back and forth between us.
"Oh, you can't even tell with your blond hair," he said, brushing me off. "Look at me! I have a full head of gray now."
"Fair point, my friend." I conceded and then I heard a faint tap at the door, making me realize that I had nearly forgotten. "Oh, Lara, we have a surprise for you."
I heard my daughter laughing as she and her mother came back into the front hall. "You didn't need to do that. I don't need any surprise gifts, Father," she explained as I opened the door behind me.
"Well, I guess we can just go home then," André said as he poked his head in.
Lara immediately jumped up and down and practically tackled her brother to the ground. "Don't you dare," she scolded her brother as they hugged. I could tell that she wanted to be much louder than she was but was aware that she had to be mindful of her daughter.
I knew my son, and I knew that he would never admit to how much he had missed the simple act of hugging his sister. They had always been close as children and I knew that the separation of a literal ocean was a lot for them, so it warmed my heart to see how tight he was holding onto her.
It wasn't long until Lara turned her attention to my other grandchild. Jonathan was looking at everyone with wide eyes as his aunt pulled him into a tight hug and planted a kiss on top of his head. André could undoubtedly see how uncomfortable his boy was, though, and attempted to clarify things.
"That's Auntie Lara, Jonathan! The one I've told you so much about," he said.
Lara must have realized how intense she was being and let go of him, then crouched down to his level before apologizing: "Oh my, I just realized that you must have no idea who I am. I'm sorry, sweetheart."
"It's okay," Jonathan replied. He was a shy boy at the best of times and everything that was happening was probably very overstimulating for him.
"Aren't you absolutely precious?" Lara said as she tapped his nose.
My daughter then snapped back into her role as hostess and introduced André to everyone who hadn't already met him: "Oh, André, this is my father-in-law, Erik."
A visually awkward handshake was as far as they went in terms of greeting. "A pleasure to finally meet you. I heard you scared the life out of my son a few years back," Erik said, managing a slight laugh. Gustave had clearly told him about the incident involving my son when I permitted the proposal.
"I did, yes. I thought he would die when I walked in on him asking my father for his blessing to marry my little sister," André explained as he poked his sister in the arm. "I interrogated him myself, but I could tell he was a good guy."
"Wait, why did I never hear about that?" Lara demanded. She was trying to speak with authority, but that had never been her strong suit when André was involved.
"It doesn't matter, love. I'll tell you later," Gustave pressed a kiss to her cheek before bending down to introduce himself to Jonathan. "Besides, it looks like I passed."
"You did, yes," André confirmed. "If you hadn't, we would not be here to see your little one. Speaking of whom, I want to see my niece!"
"Quite down, she is sleeping," I chided him. "Wait your turn," I added as I held her a little tighter to my chest.
"Father, come on. I came all the way from America, let me see her." It was almost like I had gone back in time and was hearing the voice of the teenage boy of the person that stood before me.
"You waited that long, so you can wait a little longer."
"Come on, Father. Don't be like that," Lara added with her arms crossed. She was meant to be on my side, not joining her brother's.
"I want to hold her! What do you want me to do? Your brother can wait."
"You live in the same country as her. Let André see her," Lara said. She sounded so much like her mother at that moment that I was practically obligated to comply.
I carefully made the hand-off to André, and luckily, Christine remained asleep. "Fine, fine. I expect her back later this evening."
"Good, my turn now. Thank you, Lara. Father always listened to you more," André claimed and then stuck his tongue out at me just like he did when he was a child. Lucky for him, he was holding the baby or he would have received the same retaliation as when he was a child.
"I ignored you both equally," I said with a laugh.
"Maybe you say that, but André always knew I was your favourite. You can say you loved us both equally but we know the truth." Sometimes I didn't like how well she was able to read everyone in her life so easily; it was almost scary.
"You two still bicker like children," Charlotte, my daughter-in-law, added. She wasn't wrong in any sense of the word.
"We always have and we always will," André said as he leaned over and kissed his wife on her temple.
"Where are my manners? It's amazing to see you again, Charlotte. Get over here, I missed you," Lara said as she moved over to her sister-in-law and hugged her tight. Those two truly were like sisters in every sense of the word when they were together, which I could tell made André happy.
"Yes, it's good to see you too, Lara. It really has been too long," Charlotte said as they hugged. "I am sorry we have missed so much."
"That's alright. It just means more stories now that you're here."
"Come on, Jonathan," Gustave said as he stood up and lifted my grandson with him. I assumed that he was likely aware of how much his back would hurt tomorrow, but I didn't think he particularly cared. "Why don't we go to the kitchen and let your parents reunite with Auntie Lara?"
"Okay," was Jonathan's simple response as they made their way inside.
"Seems like Gustave is getting used to fatherhood," André said with a smile as he watched his son and brother-in-law walk away.
"Yes, he loves it. He's still adjusting a bit to the lack of sleep, but he absolutely adores every other aspect." I knew that she would never admit to not liking any aspect of motherhood but she looked like she hadn't slept in days. I was aware of how much she had gone through to get to the moment of finally having her little girl, so I didn't want to push her.
Charlotte laughed and gave her husband unsavoury looks. "Lucky you. I have some fond memories of when Jonathan was that age."
"Oh, I'm sure you do. What are some of your stories? Perhaps we've run into similar circumstances," Lara said with a giggle.
"Dear god, I can feel it. I'm about to be humiliated," André said, pain in his voice. That was the only real downside for him when it came to how close his wife and sister were; there was double the opportunity for him to be mocked.
His wife kissed him on the cheek before patting it gently. "Glad you can see what's about to happen."
"Please tell me stories if it means embarrassing him." Lara never liked to miss out on an opportunity to make fun of her brother.
"Later. Definitely later," Charlotte confirmed.
"Good. I expect it," Lara said with a cheeky grin at her brother. André was about to retort when their mother stepped in as she always did.
"Well, if you two are going to bicker, let me see my granddaughter," Marguerite said.
With a sigh, André handed her over knowing that it was better to simply comply than try to strike up that discussion with his mother. "We aren't going to bicker," he proclaimed before flicking Lara's arm.
Lara started laughing and flicked him back. "My god, America hasn't changed you in the slightest."
"You expect me to change? Lara, you're adorable, really," André replied mockingly, then made another soft jab at her side. Some things never change and for that I was grateful. Business could harden a man and it always made me smile to know that it hadn't had that effect on him.
"A girl can dream," Lara sighed.
"All jokes aside, though, your daughter is beautiful. Congratulations," André said as he looked over to Christine, who was blissfully asleep in her grandmother's arms.
"Thank you. I can't tell you how happy I am to see you all. It's been too long." Lara went in for another hug from the side of her brother, which he welcomed.
"It really has been. We've missed you so much."
"Well, we missed the wedding," Charlotte pointed out. Jonathan had still been too small for the trip when Lara had gotten married, so neither of them had been able to come. I knew that Lara understood, but she had always wanted him to be there when she got married, so to not have him or Charlotte there was another level of disappointment entirely that I knew she would never let them know about. "There was no way we would miss meeting your baby as well."
"I appreciate it. I'm glad you got to be here. I want Christine to at least have met her aunt and uncle," Lara said with a smile.
"I intend to be a fully corruptive influence, I am warning you now," André said. His comment earned him a soft punch from his sister and a disapproving look from his wife. "Regardless, hopefully, one day you can come to see us in America. Once she's older, of course."
"Perhaps. I would have to talk to Gustave; his memories of America are not the fondest." Lara looked down at her feet. She and I knew more of what had happened, but she clearly did not want to be completely dismissive of her brother's offer.
"It could be something to consider, though," Marguerite chimed in, just as blissfully blind as the rest of them. "You might be able to persuade him, dear."
Lara looked over to Erik, who had gone almost as still as a statue at the mention of America. It was not an easy topic for him either but he was biting his tongue. "He's a stubborn man, Mother, and I wouldn't have it any other way. I won't make him relive those memories, though."
"Well, if he feels comfortable enough to visit, our door is always open to you three." I knew that André had picked up on the fact that there was something more that was making that such an awkward subject and I had no doubt that I would be receiving questions later on.
"Thank you. Now, let's get inside." I could tell how hard Lara was trying to change the subject when she suggested the change of location. "I'm sure you all must be tired of standing. We should probably see what Jonathan and Gustave are up to."
André let out a stifled laugh trying to help his sister. "Probably getting into trouble and eating all the biscuits, knowing those two," he remarked.
"You've only met him once outside of today. How could you know that much already?" Lara gave him a quizzical look, since she did not even know the extent of the first interaction between André and Gustave, so I could tell her question was genuine.
"Somehow, I took that away from our one short interaction." He said that so confidently that one could practically take it as law. It was that part about him that made him so wonderful for business affairs. When he wasn't being endlessly sarcastic, he could actually be quite convincing. "Am I wrong?"
Lara laughed at him before responding: "Sadly, no."
"That's what I thought."
Lara left at that to go and check on the boys in the kitchen and handle the tea that she and Marguerite hadn't finished preparing, but it was hard to avoid all the overhanging questions and the awkwardness of the group that was left in the living room.
"Erik, I remember hearing from Gustave that you run your own business," André finally said in an attempt to start up small talk.
Erik seemed to be awoken from a trance at the sound of his name; his eyes had seemed almost glazed over since the mention of Gustave going to America with Lara and Christine. "I do, yes. It is an architecture firm that I started when Gustave and I arrived in London when he was ten years old."
"That is interesting. I take it you have a background in the field, then."
"My own father was an architect by trade as well. Though I never met him, you could say I inherited the trait. I have been told I am quite good."
"You are leaving out quite a bit of the story again Erik," Nadir piped up. He had been clutching his wife's hand as he received awkward stares from André and Charlotte; they had never been introduced before that moment, so it was quite an adjustment for all of them. "Since when did you believe in being modest about such things?"
"How so?" Erik asked.
An exasperated sigh escaped Nadir before he began: "How about the fact that you were brought into Persia as a result of your reputation, redesigned the entire palace and was allowed to redo the entire capital?"
"That is incredible, Erik," Charlotte noted. She had always been very inquisitive, which was something that made her and Lara get along so well. "There is definitely no reason for you to be so humble about such an accomplishment."
"I appreciate that. I just didn't see it as important to mention at the moment," Erik said as he started fiddling with something in his hands. It was no secret that he did not enjoy the thought of all the attention being on him; he had always been one that enjoyed watching from the sidelines. "Enough about me, though. I would love to know more about you and your family."
"Well, there isn't much to tell, in all honesty. I run the business affairs in America on behalf of the family company," André explained, though I found his explanation to be rather humble as well; without him, we wouldn't have been able to complete the American project that had grown into the success that it is.
He then looked over to his wife and took her hand. "I met Charlotte within my first year of living in New York and that was it for me. I knew instantly that she was for me and I brought her home to introduce her to the rest of my family as soon as I could. We have been married a few years now, and if you remember, we weren't able to come to the wedding since we had only just been blessed with Jonathan."
"I remember that, yes," Erik said. He seemed to have clammed back up again at the mention of New York. "I imagine it was a difficult decision, seeing as how close you and Lara seem to be."
"It truly was. But as long as she is happy, I am happy," André replied.
At that moment, Lara and Gustave returned to the living room; my daughter was holding a full tray of teacups with the teapot, whereas her husband was holding the cookie tin in one hand and holding his nephew against his hip with the other.
"Gustave, stop it," Lara said as she saw her husband reach into the tin once more as he put it down.
"What did I do?" he asked as he handed the cookie he took over to Jonathan. "They're here to be eaten, aren't they?"
"Yes, they are. But by people other than just you."
"But they're good!" Gustave pointed out as he swiftly took another for himself and raced over to the empty seat next to his father. If it wasn't for the giggling Jonathan on his lap, Gustave definitely would have felt her wrath.
Marguerite shook her head at them and their foolish antics. She was still holding Christine, who was blissfully asleep and unaware of how her parents behaved as if they were still teenagers. "You two are supposedly the adults in this house for Christine. And right now, she is the most well-behaved person out of you three."
Gustave and Lara shared a knowing look and simply laughed. It warmed my heart to know how happy they truly were and I couldn't agree more with what André had said; they were happy, and by extension, it made everyone around them happier.
"You seem pleased with that revelation," Erik said as he seemed to be holding back laughter of his own.
I couldn't help but smile along with him. "That they do."
I had thought long and hard about the decision I was about to make and resolved that I was making a necessary choice, so I brought Gustave into the kitchen and handed him a small bag. "I have a late gift for little Christine," I said, giving him a small smile.
"Oh, Philippe, you didn't have to," Gustave said as he opened it slowly. "You and Marguerite have already done so much for Lara and me."
"It isn't from me, actually," I replied.
Gustave then looked at me with a confused expression and I began to doubt my decision to bring all of this upon him. "Well, who is it from then?" he inquired. I could only assume he thought it was a distant aunt or one of my sisters who had not been able to come to the shower.
There was a part of me that knew there would be no sugar coating things, so I thought it was best to be done bluntly: "It's from Raoul and his wife."
With barely a moment to process, Gustave stopped what he was doing and handed the bag back to me. "Keep it then."
"Gustave, I know you and my brother are not on speaking terms, and I understand that position and side with you in this fight." I truly did side with him; it was just that there was a small part in my soul that could not let go of my little brother. "But...just as a courtesy, would you open the gift? So I can tell him that you at least saw it?"
"Does he deserve that kind of satisfaction?" Gustave's tone was unwavering and his arms were crossed as he physically stepped away from the bag on the counter.
"In truth, he doesn't. I have no sympathy for him after what he did to you and Christine, but...I've never seen him so broken. Do him this one service, Gustave, that's all I ask. I don't ask you to keep it or value it or even show it to your daughter. All I ask of you is that you open it," I said.
Gustave sighed and took a step back towards me and the gift by extension. "I'll do that for you. I owe him nothing," he replied.
He opened the bag with a look of distaste on his face that I would not wish upon anyone. Inside was a black box with gold trim; how my brother was able to afford it, I will never know. When Gustave opened the box, a melody began to play and two carved figures emerged. They looked to be dancing; the man was wearing a black suit with gold accents that were similar to those on the box itself, while the woman was wearing a gown that started out pink in the skirt and changed into a deep blue in the bodice. I could immediately tell who was being depicted by the little figurines; it was meant to be Christine and my brother.
The lid of the box was expertly painted with an array of red and gold feathers, which was a reference that I did not completely understand. However, it seemed to have struck a tone with Gustave, as he slammed the box closed and put it on the counter. He then looked back into the bag and saw that there were also two pieces of paper inside. One appeared to be a note, I observed as he pulled it out, while the other was much smaller and looked to be quite a bit older. He quickly scanned through the note and his expression faded into nothing. I could not tell what he was feeling; he seemed to have grown out of his boyish tendency to display everything on his face, much like his mother. He barely let out an audible sound when he put the note on the table next to the box.
I pointed to the letter and very softly asked, "May I?"
"Go ahead. Empty words from a shell of a figure in my life," he replied, his voice unwavering again as he pushed the letter into my hands. I knew that he hadn't meant it offensively and that he was simply in a very defensive state at the moment, so I chose to say nothing as I looked down to the letter and started to read it:
Congratulations to you and your wife. I still remember the day you were born; your mother was terrified. I suppose now we know why. My wife Meg and I both hope this finds you well. Enclosed in this bag along with our gift is your original birth certificate, which records you as having my last name. Do with it what you wish.
An island, a pier, a tragedy, a night I will regret forever.
From the man who was almost your father.
"Although I miss the meaning of the body of the note, the sign-off...Gustave, I'm sorry," I said, looking up at my son-in-law as I realized that I should have listened to my gut and sent the whole gift back to Raoul without a second thought. "I didn't think he would make that sort of comment."
"He doesn't have the right! He lost all rights to me years ago. He can't just come and go as he pleases, thinking there is still a shred of hope and respect left in my heart for him!" he exclaimed. Though his volume was rising, his overall tone was almost eerily still. "He has no claim over this happiness; you know where he and I stand. As far as I am concerned, Raoul de Chagny doesn't exist. The only good part about this is that I can destroy this and be done with whatever legal claim he might have thought he had."
Gustave took his birth certificate and ripped off the bottom corner, which I could only assume was the part that bore his mother's signature; it was the only aspect of that document that I could see him wanting to keep. He then walked over to the stove and turned it on. Within seconds of the element being ignited, Gustave was holding the certificate over the flames, engulfing it in moments, but he held on much longer than what made me comfortable and nearly burned himself.
When the deed was done, he turned his attention back to me and I could tell that I was in for questions. "And this Meg woman. Do you know what her name was before their wedding? Her maiden name?" he asked.
"I didn't even find out about her until after the wedding. I didn't know he was courting or engaged again. I had no idea. What makes you ask?" I replied.
"I knew someone by that name," he explained as I watched his eyes scan over the note once more.
"Oh, I remember. It was Giry; pretty woman, bright blonde hair," I heard André say as he stepped into the room, but I had never wished more than I did at that moment that my son would be anywhere else other than in the same room as I was. "Uncle said he met her on Coney Island and that they'd been old friends."
Gustave went white as a ghost and his voice was so quiet that I could barely hear him when he said, "Oh my god, he didn't."
"You've been in touch with your uncle?" I asked André, realizing that he must have spoken to Raoul recently to know that information.
"Yes I have, why haven't you? He's been asking about you a lot," my son replied.
I looked back to Gustave with a jolt as his fist collided with the countertop. "That bastard didn't," he said, and I noticed then that his voice had changed; there was a deep growl in his tone that sent a chill down even my spine.
"André, your uncle and I are not on speaking terms." I was almost frantic in making sure that I made the point before all else. "We haven't spoken before he asked that I pass on the music box for the baby. While you've been in America...a lot has happened, all with your uncle caught up in the middle of it."
"My god, I could kill him," Gustave said in the same dark tone as he had used earlier. He stared at the music box with such contempt that it looked as though it would burst into flames just as his birth certificate had.
My poor son had absolutely no idea what was happening; I wished that I had explained things to him earlier. "Gustave, Father, I don't understand. I'm going to need someone to give me at least a summary of what's happened before this goes any further," he said.
"Your damned uncle married the woman who killed my mother. Do you need more information?" Gustave snapped at André, clearly growing short on patience from all the questions.
"Oh my god. What? I can't believe that, why on earth would he do that?" André asked; he looked to be reassessing every conversation he'd had with his uncle in hopes of figuring out how this could have happened. When he couldn't figure it out, he looked to me for answers that I simply did not have. "Father, you really had no idea about any of this?"
"He never even sent me an invitation to the wedding. How on earth could I have known?" I replied, shrugging helplessly.
Gustave looked as though he wanted to leave; he was making his way out of the kitchen and said, "He was always slime but I thought he had some respect for the dead."
"Gustave, you have to understand that I had no idea," I pleaded.
"Whether you knew about her or not, you knew the gift was from him and you still brought it to me!" he exclaimed as he made a swift turn and looked me right in my eyes. When I saw him, I almost did not recognize him; he looked like a different person altogether. There was so much darkness and pain behind his eyes and I could not quite tell what he was reliving at that moment. "You know how I feel about him and that I want nothing to do with him, and yet you just had to fulfill his request and bring me a peace offering from him under the guise of a gift for my daughter!"
André then started to say something, probably with the hopes of calming him down: "Gustave, there-"
"Don't get involved in things beyond you," Gustave snapped once more and left the kitchen. I wanted to go after him, but I had an obligation to my own son first.
"Why didn't you tell me any of that? I went to their wedding, I met their first child. If I had known what's gone on, I never would have done that," André said with a sigh.
"Because I didn't know you and him were still so close," I replied. I couldn't help but feel defeated and like I could have done so many things different leading up until now and it could have saved so much grief. "I never even told him where you were moving to, so I wasn't expecting him to contact you."
"Well, I reached out to him first after I moved. I told him where I was and we kept up a correspondence." Of course he had; I had sent my son to a new country with only one person that he knew and I simply assumed that he wouldn't try to make contact.
"Good god, I've made such a mess of things," I sighed.
"Father, I'm sure we'll be able to work this out. Gustave seems like a reasonable young man, I'm sure it'll be fine," André said in an attempt to console me, though if he knew the situation he would not be thinking that it would be simple.
"Not when it comes to your uncle."
"I'm beginning to see how that might be difficult, yes." I realized the breadth of everything I would now have to explain to him for the entire interaction to make sense. "I can't believe he'd do something like that."
"There's a lot you don't know about him."
"Yes, I'm starting to realize that," André said with a sigh.
Erik then came into the kitchen looking quite confused and I was pointed to yet another person who would be hurt by what I had done. "I heard a commotion. What happened?" he asked as he looked between André and me.
"I brought a...a gift on behalf of Raoul and his wife, along with a note from them," I said as I gave Erik the note with a slight shake in my hand that I prayed was not as noticeable to see as it was to feel. "Gustave was...less than pleased with me for it."
He scanned through the note in seconds and looked up at me with complete shock on his face. "Is this who I think it is?" he asked. I didn't even have to know what he was referring to in order to answer his question.
"If that person happens to be Meg Giry, then yes, it is," I said quietly.
It was one of those moments where the similarities between the father and son became truly visible and I realized where Gustave got his response to anger. Erik went completely expressionless and asked a question in a tone that sent an unbearable chill down my spine: "Where did Gustave go?"
"He stormed off. I'm not sure where he went," I replied.
As if on cue, there was a crash upstairs that made André and I jump, but Erik did not move. He slammed the note on the table and looked me right in my eyes. "We are not done here," was all he said before he walked out of the kitchen.
The slam was heard throughout the entire house, so I quickly passed Christine over to Charlotte and went after the footsteps going towards the staircase. I found Erik had beaten me and was already halfway up.
"What just happened?" I heard Nadir ask from behind me.
"Stay out of this, Daroga. You don't want to get involved with this," Erik snapped in response. The usual warmth in Erik's eyes that he had when he looked at Nadir was gone, I noticed. Something was very wrong.
Nadir was clearly not having any of that and went ahead of me to the base of the stairs to look up at his friend directly. "Given how angry you look, I think I do want - or need, rather - to be involved. Erik, what's going on?"
"Trust me, Nadir, stay out," Erik replied, speaking through a clenched jaw. I realized then that I really needed both of those men to stop acting like boys so I could get through and see my husband.
"Erik, what is happening? Why do you look ready to kill someone?" Adele piped up, and quite honestly, she couldn't be more correct.
Erik didn't even look at her; he simply said: "You especially need to stay out of this."
"Excuse me? Have I done something to hurt you that I'm not aware of?" She looked even more confused than ever and my feelings were very similar; I knew that Erik would never intentionally speak so sharply to her, but the fact that he was only confirmed the fact that something was incredibly wrong. "If that's the case, Erik, I'm sorry, but if you could just explain, I would appreciate that."
An exasperated sigh left him before he responded, glancing up the stairs as he spoke: "I'll explain later, but for now, I need you to stay away from Gustave." He then raced up the stairs faster than I had ever seen him move before without another word.
I didn't mean to be so forceful but I had to push both Nadir and Adele aside to get past them, my heart pounding in my chest so hard that I could hear it in my ears. Erik only just beat me to the bedroom where we found Gustave on his knees on the floor, clutching his hand.
"Gustave, my god. What's going on?" I asked.
"It's okay, Lara," he choked out.
"No it isn't, you're bleeding," I said when I got closer and saw why he was holding his hand the way that he was; his knuckles were bruised and some spots had little trickles of blood coming from them. "Tell me what is going on."
"I am fine."
Erik then turned to me and asked: "Lara, fetch your first aid kit and a damp cloth for me, please."
"So it's not fine," I said, glaring at Gustave, who couldn't even look me in the eyes. "I'll be right back."
When I returned with the first aid kit, Erik seemed to just be finished whispering something to Gustave but had stopped when I entered the room. I made a mental note to make sure I asked what was said and why it was so secretive.
"What is going on?" I asked as I passed the kit over to Erik; he was better with medical kinds of things than I was, so I figured that it made more sense for him to do it.
"Well, for one, your husband punched a wall," Erik replied as he dabbed the bleeding spots on Gustave's hand with the cloth to clean them.
I could not hide the fact that I was shocked; I had only ever seen Gustave get to the level he seemed to be at once before, but the thought of it being the same reason was impossible. "What on Earth? Gustave, tell me what is going on."
He finally looked up away from his hand to look me right in my eyes. "Your uncle. That's what's going on," he replied.
It took me a moment to register what was going on, but it still didn't make any sense. "We haven't seen him in years. What could he possibly have done?" I asked.
"He and his new wife sent us a gift for Christine! His pathetic attempt at reconciliation." Gustave got up and walked away from both Erik and me.
"Don't walk away from me right now," I chided him and he stopped in his tracks. "How could he have sent it? He doesn't have our new address. The only one he would have is...Father's." Looking up, I realized that Father had chosen that exact moment to come and check on what was happening. Of course he had.
"Raoul reached out to me not that long ago. None of us are on good terms with him, but he is still my little brother," he explained. The pieces started to click together and I was not a fan of the picture they were creating. "I checked up on him recently and I mentioned the baby by accident. He insisted upon sending something when he found out her name."
"Why would you bring it, though? Why would you even tell him her name?!" I asked him, tears in my eyes knowing what that revelation must have done to Gustave.
"I felt I owed it to him, I suppose. I don't know what I was thinking," Father said quietly.
"I never want him or that woman mentioned in this house again," Gustave stated. It was more of a command than a request and I could not hold it against him for phrasing it that way. "I still have nightmares, Philippe! He will never meet Christine. Neither of them will."
"Gustave, look at me," I said as I tried to get in between him and my father, all while trying to get a grip on things myself. "Everything is going to be alright. He doesn't know where we live and he will never need to meet her. There is no use being mad at a man who can't hear it for himself. Just look at me, take some deep breaths, and calm down."
"I'm trying to calm down, Lara! I just can't stop hearing him now." He was crying, so angry I thought he would combust. "Thanks to what you thought was harmless," he snapped as he pointed at my father with murder in his eyes and I knew that I needed to make sure that I stayed between them for everyone's sake. "Your brother has never left my head. He lives within my mind without my consent. The marks on my arms may have gone away, but he has found other ways of tormenting me. I hear him mocking me and threatening me every single night! And you've brought back her - the woman who tore my life to pieces - all at the same time! How dare you bring that - bring both of them - into this house! Into my daughter's home! I have built a life here and managed to break away from them, and you bring them right back to me! Why would you do that? I trusted that you understood what had happened and why I could never have him brought up again. Now you bring this to me and tell him my daughter's name. How could you do that to me?"
"Gustave, just sit there and take a deep breath." I pulled his face away from my father and forced him to look at me and only me, then glance over at my father and father-in-law. "Father, Erik, could you just give us a moment, please?" I knew that it wasn't the best idea to have Erik leave at that moment, but it was the best idea I could come up with. Thankfully, they both acknowledged my request and left, which gave me hope that I would be able to calm Gustave enough for him to be comprehensive of the situation.
"Gustave, instead of losing your mind on my father, why don't you tell me what's happening in a calm tone?" I suggested as I led us both to the bed and sat down.
"He pulled me aside and handed me a box. He told me it was from your uncle and his new wife and asked me to open it. I did it for Philippe and no one else. I got through the note and recognized his wife's name. It was then that your brother told me that the woman he married is the same woman who murdered my mother!" The words were falling out of him like rain from the sky and it was so much to take in at one time that I didn't know how I was going to respond. "Is it truly that much of a shock that I lost my mind on him? That wasn't even all that was in the box, you know. The note also had my birth certificate; up until a few minutes ago, I was still his. He still could have come for me. He could have shown up at my father's door and taken me and there would have been nothing either of us could do about it."
"Gustave, breathe. I think you're forgetting that my father couldn't have known," I said gently in an effort to keep him from yelling, but he wasn't having it.
"Your brother knew! It wouldn't have been that hard for your father to find out. They were in touch when your uncle gave him the music box. Your father had a chance to inquire, to refuse to pass on the gift, and he didn't. Now he knows her name too. I just want him to leave me alone. I have had nightmares since Christine was born of him walking up to her crib and taking her, with me powerless to stop him. I know that they are only bad dreams. I was able to reconcile with the fact that he didn't even know of her existence, but now he does."
"I know you have many qualms with my family and It hurts me to know how much he has hurt you and how much he continues to do so," I said as I looked down at my feet. That was something that had been heavy on my heart whenever my uncle was brought up. "I am sorry that I must remind you of that every time you look at me."
After a sharp inhale, Gustave seemed to stop breathing for a moment. "Lara please, you can't be serious," he said quietly.
"And what if I am?" I replied. "It only makes logical sense; it is your connection to me that keeps leading to him being brought up. It is alright if you are upset with me as a result of that."
"Lara, please, no." Gustave took my left hand and held my rings down to the base of my finger. "I could never be upset with you because of what he's done."
"I know you wouldn't ever admit it to me, but it is not something we should keep ignoring."
"I've gone and messed everything up now haven't I?" Gustave muttered as he put his face in his hands. "I could never, ever look at you and see him. When I look at you, I see someone so much stronger than me; I see somebody who survives. I see my wife and I could never look at you any other way. I am so sorry." He then took both of my hands in his and pressed a kiss to my knuckles, letting me see that his hands were shaking. He didn't like going to that dark place of his but he simply couldn't escape it sometimes.
"Gustave, I love you so much. I know this is hard and it upsets you a great deal, but all the yelling and screaming won't fix a single thing, now will it?" I said softly, finally realizing that I had calmed him and would be able to get him to understand.
"How would I fix this, then? Because I'm not going to go downstairs and hear out an apology from your father. Not yet," he said with a shake of his head.
I started to reply, but I suddenly took note of the fact that I was hearing a commotion that pulled my eyes away from him and towards the door. I couldn't make out exactly whose voices they were, but it sounded quite intense.
"Well, how about you come down to break up whatever that is downstairs?" I suggested. He didn't seem overly fond of the idea, but took my hand and followed me down the stairs regardless. When we got to the base of the stairs, I was able to put names to the voices, but the reality hit like a ton of bricks; it was Nadir and Erik going at it with practically murderous intent in their eyes.
"Did you know?! Answer me, damn it!" Erik yelled. I had never seen him so upset with Nadir ever in my life.
"I had heard she married him, yes! There, I said it! Are you satisfied now?!" Nadir shot back.
Erik froze in place for a moment and I watched a tidal wave of emotions rolling across his face. "And you didn't think to say anything?!" he snapped.
"What good would that have done?!" Nadir sounded exhausted by all that was going on, but I could tell that Erik was just getting started and that was what terrified me.
"It would have at least made me aware so I wouldn't have had to find out when they try to send a gift of reconciliation for my grandchild!" Erik retorted, and I noticed that he held what I could only assume was that same gift in his hands. "Do you not think that's a detail that I should know?!"
Adele and I seemed to have been sharing thoughts, as she snapped at both of them, saying exactly what I was thinking: "Could you two stop this? This is pointless."
"I already accepted your apology long ago, Madame," Erik immediately replied. I hadn't heard him call her that except as a joke, but the way he had said it then, with his voice as cool and deep and...threatening as it had just been, lit a spark of fear in the pit of my stomach. "Don't push your luck."
"If you know what's good for you, you'll watch how you speak to her, angry or not," Nadir said as he stepped in to defend her, pushing his wife behind him.
"I've seen what you're capable of, Daroga. You'll have to do a lot more than that to scare me."
"I'm not trying to scare you, I'm putting you in your place, Erik." I'd never seen Nadir so angry before in all my years of knowing him, but I also knew him to be very protective, so it wasn't exactly out of character for him to jump to his wife's defence. "She is my wife and I will not allow you to speak to her like that, no matter the circumstances."
"Look who refuses to let chivalry die. I think I know better than you that she can fight her own battles. She definitely knows how to start them," Erik replied, his voice dripping with every emotion he must have been feeling at that moment to the point that I could barely decipher all of them. At the same time, though, there was a distinct steadiness in his tone that could not be ignored.
"I am well aware of the fact that she can fight her own battles. I'm only making sure she isn't being hurt by an idiot who can't keep his temper in check." They were practically at each other's throats, though they had been at opposite walls in the kitchen when we came downstairs. Despite the physical space between them, though, there was no denying that a sword would be needed to cut the tension.
"Did you really expect either of us to say anything about this? I kept this from you to protect you from being hurt like this, why can't you understand that?" Nadir demanded.
"Because maybe it would have hurt less coming from you," Erik said simply, and despite the fury in his voice, I thought I picked up on his voice wavering slightly when he said that.
"Somehow I doubt that those sentiments are the ones you would have had if I had told you," Nadir said, obviously getting tired of the circles they seemed to be going in. "You would have just gotten all defensive like you just did, throwing out comments about her being my stepdaughter and how I'm stepping up to the plate to defend her all of a sudden. You made those remarks now and you would have made them when I told you earlier. I have known you for too long, Erik, I know how you operate."
"Then I suppose you don't know me at all. If you knew me, you would know that after the initial shock and blowout, I wouldn't have blamed you for the actions of that man and woman. I would never," Erik retorted. I knew that there was some truth in what both of them were saying; in reality, it would have been some amalgamation of both of their scenarios, but they were both too prideful and too angry to admit that.
Nadir scoffed and continued his fight to prove his point: "But you are blaming me now? What are you trying to prove, Erik? You're furious with me, that much is plain to see, but I can't tell who you're angrier with - them or me. I made a mistake, I recognize that, but I only wanted to protect you! That's what I have always wanted to do, the entire time I've known you."
"I am not some child that needs your protection," Erik snapped. At some point over the course of the last minute or so, they had inched forward and were practically nose-to-nose.
"If you're no child, then stop acting like one," Nadir replied.
"I am not acting like a child. I am simply reacting like a human being to finding out news that has made me beyond angry, as well as discovering that the man I thought was my friend knew about it, but didn't tell me because he doesn't trust me enough to control myself."
"Doesn't trust you? If I didn't trust you, would I have kept you in my life as long as I have? Would I have let you step a foot in my home when I brought you to Persia? Do you think I would have let you come within a mile of my son if I didn't trust you?" Nadir asked, the questions coming in response almost immediately. I couldn't tell if he was more hurt or angry; either way, visible tears were welling up in his eyes and they seemed to be dangerously close to falling freely. "You have killed people in cold blood and I let you get close to the person that I love most in this world, and you think I don't trust you?! How askew does your perception have to be for you to think that, Erik?!"
One barely had enough time to gasp as Erik's hand shot up like a bullet from his side and was inches from Nadir's throat. Thankfully, he was able to catch it, but instead of pushing it down immediately, he held it in place. He looked between it and Erik's face before saying, "I suppose old habits really do die hard."
Erik's hand starts to shake and I couldn't tell if it was because of his own realization or the way that Nadir was holding his wrist.
"Adele, let's go. There is nothing left for us to talk about here and I can tell we aren't exactly wanted. No reason to stay," Nadir said cooly, finally letting go of Erik's wrist and taking his wife by the hand to lead her out of the room.
It wasn't until the front door closed that we fully came to terms with the fact that they really had just left. I turned to Gustave in hopes that he would say something, but he was as pale as a ghost. Even despite the bandages, he was holding my hand as tight as possible. I concluded that he had never seen them fight before; those two had raised him and he had never seen that with his own eyes. To add that to his already fragile state from earlier in the evening, he had to have felt like life was crumbling around him all over again.
"Alright, I may not know everything that you two have been through, but I know for certain that you two are brothers," I finally said, breaking the silence because I was tired of the fighting and was determined to stop it; no more pain could be allowed in our family, I wouldn't going to allow it. "I know better than anyone that siblings fight; André can attest to that. Both of you acted like children just now and I expected more from you. How do you think you'll feel if you don't go after him right now? If you two don't talk this out, you've just lost the best friend you've ever had. Now go and talk. To. Him."
"Why should I? He won't want to speak to me, and I'm not keen on doing that either," Erik replied, sounding so defeated that it broke my heart a little.
"I'm not asking. I'm telling. Go talk to him," I repeated.
Erik looked like he wanted to take his mask off to wipe his eyes, but there were still other people around so I knew he wouldn't. "He is already gone, Lara."
"That means you go after him," I told him point-blank. "You and I both know you'll regret it if you don't."
"Why bother at this point? He won't say anything. I know that look he had on his face; he isn't going to say a word to me." I knew right away that he was trying to stall. At that point, I was surprised he hadn't figured out that he didn't have a choice in the matter; he was going to at least try even if I had to drag him out by the ear.
"All the better for you to talk," I said as I crossed my arms in front of my chest.
"He won't listen to me either. I've only seen that look on his face once before and it was when I thought I had done something that he could never forgive me for. I got lucky then, but I'm beginning to think I might not be so fortunate this time."
"Only one way to find out. Go now."
He must have finally realized that I wasn't going to let up, as he went to the door and opened it with Gustave and I following behind him. Much to my own dismay and probably his, though, Nadir and Adele were already out of sight.
"What did I tell you? He wants nothing to do with me at the moment," he said with a slight shrug of his shoulder as he grabbed his coat and slipped on his shoes before kissing me on my forehead. "I appreciate that you tried, Lara. Apologize to your parents for what happened, and kiss Christine for me."
"Papa, don't leave," Gustave said as he reached out and grabbed his father's arm in an attempt to get him to stay.
When Erik turned around to look at us, one could see within his eyes all the sadness of the world. Nobody had intended the night to take the turn that it had, but there we were. "Gustave, I just need to go home and clear my head. I'm not in the frame of mind to stay here and socialize," he said.
"You don't have to. Just don't leave," my husband replied.
"What would you have me do if I stay? Sit on the couch and say nothing? I've already made things tense here, with the Comte especially." Erik looked so defeated as he looked over to the living room where everyone had gathered when the fighting began. "I don't need to make it worse, so I'll just go home."
"I don't want you alone right now," Gustave said, his voice cracking with his final word. That sounded like more a plea than anything else, which felt so odd to come out of Gustave. I hadn't heard him sound like that since before he left for deployment and I had tried to unpack his things. The message was the same though, he was asking for someone not to leave.
"Nothing is going to happen, Gustave. I'll be fine," Erik replied.
"I need you to swear to me that nothing will happen."
"I am telling you nothing is going to happen. What do you have in your head that I would go home and do?"
There was an uncomfortable pause, which I knew was because all of the possible outcomes of that night were running through Gustave's mind like a runaway train. "I don't know and I don't care enough to find out," he finally said.
"Well, I'm not going to go and attempt anything stupid, if that puts your mind at ease," Erik replied.
"Alright. Come by tomorrow please." Gustave was getting choked up again, so he took a moment to recompose himself before he added, "If you don't, I'll come to you."
"Yes, I'll see how I'm feeling in the morning. I'll try and call if I'm not feeling up to coming." It didn't take a genius to be able to tell that he was completely intent on not coming tomorrow.
"I'll be waiting. Good night, Papa."
"Good night. Make sure you tell Christine I love her as well," Erik said as he looked in the direction of the living room again, no doubt wishing he could say goodbye to his granddaughter, but I had left Christine with my mother and she was almost certainly still holding her. "I would go say good night to her myself, but...I just need to go home right now."
"Alright. Have a good night."
The moment Erik closed the door behind him, Gustave looked to me with almost a sense of panic in his eyes. "I'm not the only one who can tell how upset he is, right?" he asked.
Before I could even affirm him of his position he kept going: "I'm worried about him. This isn't right. I've never seen them at each other's throats like that."
"Neither have I," I was finally able to admit. "I don't think I've ever seen your father so angry."
"I've seen it once before. The combination of Mother and your uncle set him off." I once again had to make a mental note of the fact that I had to ask him about that later on.
"And understandably so. I know your father has a temper - you're the same way - but Nadir...I didn't know he had it in him to be quite so furious," I said as I thought back to the coldness that I had seen that night that I had witnessed on Nadir's face before. He had always been so warm and level-headed that I truly hadn't been expecting that from him. "Especially with your father, of all people."
"My Uncle Nadir has a lot more patience than my father. That's why they balance each other out so well," Gustave pointed out, which was undeniably true the more I thought about it. "But his temper is quieter; he won't yell normally, he knows better than that. I think that's one of the only times I've seen him raise his voice."
"He looked so angry, but I could tell it hurt to fight with your father like that; I could see it in his eyes. Especially after he mentioned his son. I can tell there's much more to that story than I know, isn't there?"
He sighed before admitting, "I think there's more to that story than either of us will ever know."
"I hope they fix this soon." My own heart was racing at the thought that they might not recover from what just happened. They had to, didn't they? "Your father can't live without Nadir and he knows it."
"Let's hope they both realize how much they need each other before it's too late."
"They have to." I couldn't tell if I was trying to reassure Gustave or myself; we both needed to hear it, really. "I'm just as afraid as you are about what Erik will do if that doesn't happen."
"And like I said to him, I don't care to find out."
My heart stopped for a moment in my chest at the realization of exactly what was at stake with every moment that Erik was alone. "You...you don't think he would try to harm himself at all, do you? I know Nadir worried about that the day that you left the train station, but I never knew if those fears had any substance," I said quietly.
"I wouldn't put it out of the equation." Gustave's hand started tapping on his thigh with anxiety so I took it into my own. "I'm going to check on him tomorrow whether he wants it or not."
"I'll join you. I don't think I could bear it if something like that happened to him."
"You should stay here with Christine." I could see the gears in his head turning and I couldn't tell if that was a good thing or not. "I think I have a plan to make sure that they make up."
"Gustave, I'm going to come with you. I want to make sure they make up just as much as you do," I replied, surprised to hear him trying to keep me out of this.
"I'll explain my plan in the morning. Just trust me, please," he requested.
"You know I do, my love. I'm just worried about those two. I love them both so much."
"I know you do and I love them too," he started, "but the only way they're going to make up is if we give them no choice."
"That's a good point. As mad as they are, I doubt they'll choose to speak to each other anytime soon. I trust that you'll work this out; I'm going to go talk to Father and make sure he's okay. He must be beating himself up so much for this; he sat back during the fight and looked rather upset with himself."
Gustave let go of my hand and kept staring at the front door, almost as if he believed that if he looked at it enough, they would both come back as if nothing had happened. "Papa doesn't like conflict with those he cares about. After we fought, neither of us could sleep for the whole night," he said quietly.
"I have a feeling the situation is going to be similar tonight. Those two care about each other so much," I sighed.
"I know they do. And we're going to make sure they're alright." Gustave then turned his attention back to me and lifted my hand again so he could kiss it. "I promise."
I kissed his hand as well before saying: "I believe you, my dear." With that, we walked back into the living room that felt much colder than it had in a long time.