~~Chapter Two Hundred Twenty~~
‘A child arrived just the other day …
‘He came into the world in the usual way …
‘But there were planes to catch and bills to pay …
‘He learned to walk while I was away …’
-‘The Cat’s in the Cradle’ by Harry Chapin.
Gin hurried into the bright and airy kitchen humming a low song under her breath as she made straight for the refrigerator without noticing Evan, sitting in the breakfast nook with a cup of tea and a scowl on his face. The moment he saw his mother, however, that scowl dissipated, and he couldn’t help the soft chuckle that escaped him at the sight of his tiny mama and her less-than-tiny belly. “Mornin’, Mama,” he called as he lifted the mug of tea to his lips.
Gin squeaked in surprised and whipped around to face him, nearly losing her balance when her extra girth kept going but her feet did not. “Oh, Evan!” she exclaimed softly, steadying herself on the counter beside her. “When did you get here?”
“Just a few minutes ago, actually,” he admitted, then nodded at the white enameled kettle on the stovetop. “Made up some hot water if you want tea.”
She spared a moment to stare almost longingly at the pot then sighed. “I promised your father I’d drink more milk and less good stuff,” she admitted, her face contorting for a moment, designed to let him know what she thought of the idea of drinking milk.
Evan grinned. “Well, some people put milk in their tea,” he remarked mildly.
“That sounds so gross! Why would any—Oh-h-h-h,” she breathed as her eyes flashed open wide in understanding. “That would make the milk taste better,” she decided, spinning around to retrieve a mug out of the cupboard behind her.
“Speaking of Cain,” Evan said with a frown, deliberately taking his time in choosing his words, “he in his studio?”
“Your father?” Gin asked, her voice preoccupied as she set about making a mug of tea. “Well, he’s probably up now, but he was sleeping when I came down. Is that why you’re here?”
“Mmm,” Evan replied in a non-committal sort of way. “I promised V I’d talk to him.”
Gin didn’t seem to find anything amiss in his words, and she spared a moment to cast him a bright smile before resuming her task once more, and Evan had to shake his head when she stopped only long enough to pour about a tablespoon of milk into her teacup. “He mentioned working on that sculpture for your wedding present,” she went on before sipping from her cup. Then she sighed and closed her eyes as though she were in heaven. “Oh, this is nice . . . Well, aside from the milk . . .” Then she blinked and frowned as she glanced at Evan once more. “Will you be staying long? I could make a nice lunch . . .”
Evan sighed and shrugged as he forced himself to stand up. No sense in delaying the inevitable, now was there . . .? “I, uh . . . I don’t know, Mama. Maybe.”
Her frown shifted from thoughtful to slightly worried, and Evan could have kicked himself for the change. “Is everything okay?” she asked in a brighter tone than he supposed she would have normally use—proof positive that she was more concerned than she ought to have been.
For that reason alone, Evan wandered around the counter to give her a hug and a loud, obnoxious kiss on the cheek. “Everything’s right as rain, Mama,” he assured her. “I just . . . I just need to ask Cain a few things.”
“All right,” she relented, taking her time as she sipped her tea. Staring at Evan over the brim of the delicate cup, she seemed to be considering something. “Make sure you find me when you’re done! Seems like we haven’t had much time to visit lately.”
Sparing a moment to smile and to step over to give her a quick hug and kiss on the cheek, Evan wasn’t so sure, but he didn’t gainsay her, either. “I will, Mama. Promise.”
He almost missed the soft knock on the studio door. Having just taken a step back to give the painting a critical eye, Cain blinked as the abrasive sound intruded on his thoughts. “It’s open,” he called, crossing his arms over his chest, using the heels of his hands to idly rub at his sides and inadvertently smearing traces of paint onto his skin in the process.
“Hey, uh, Cain . . . Got a minute?”
Scowling at the paint he’d managed to get all over himself, Cain spared a moment to glance over at Evan and nod. “Sure,” he said, reaching for a work cloth to clean himself off, only to succeed in adding to the mess since he’d been using it to dab his brushes on, too. “Um . . .” he drawled, jerking his head in the vague direction of the bathroom. “It’s ‘Dad’, and let me clean this up, first . . .”
Digging his hands into the pockets of his jeans, Evan shuffled forward, following in Cain’s wake. “If, uh . . . If you’re busy, I can come back later . . .”
Glancing up a he stuck a clean white washcloth under the running tap, Cain shook his head quickly, casting Evan an apologetic kind of glance. “No, it’s fine,” he assured him quickly. There was something weird in Evan’s aura, a sense of reluctance, of complete reservation, and Cain wasn’t sure why. “I just need to get this off me before I forget about it.” Rubbing at the drying paint smears, he frowned. “What do you need?”
Letting out a deep breath, Evan slumped back against the shower stall, crossing his arms over his chest as he considered Cain’s question. “I . . . I don’t need anything, Cain. I just . . . just wanted to . . . talk.”
That got Cain’s full attention. Frowning thoughtfully as he stared at his son’s reflection in the plate glass mirror over the sink, he nodded slowly and dropped the washcloth on the counter. Something about Evan’s stance, the reticence that he was trying to hide . . . “Okay,” he said, leading the way out of the bathroom, lifting a hand to gesture for Evan to follow. He said nothing as he crossed the floor to the small sitting area at the far end of the studio, Sitting on the sofa, he leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and waited for Evan to sit down, too, before asking, “Is this something about the lighthouse or the wedding . . .?”
Evan made a face and quickly shook his head, and for the briefest of moments, time seemed to reverse, bringing to mind Evan as a small boy when he’d had to confess that he’d accidentally knocked Cain’s cake off the counter because he was running through the house with the first bokken he’d just been given. Cain smiled at the memory and wondered vaguely just what could inspire Evan to make that same kind of expression now.
Turning his head to the side, Evan scowled at the far wall, as though he thought maybe he could find the answers he sought written there. “V,” he said at length, haltingly, hesitantly. “She . . . She asked me to talk to you about . . . about things . . .”
Cain’s nostalgic smile dimmed then disappeared, and he gave the smallest shake of his head. “What kind of things?”
Heaving a sigh that seemed almost defeated, Evan let his gaze drop to the floor under his feet. “Just things . . . like . . .” Face screwing up into a disgusted grimace, Evan quickly shook his head again. “Like . . . Ah-h-h, this is stupid!” he growled, shooting to his feet, striding around the coffee table as he headed for the door.
Cain stood up, too. He wasn’t exactly surprised by Evan’s show of temper, but there was something else there, too—something that Cain couldn’t quite put his finger on but there, nonetheless. “Evan, wait,” he called after him. Evan stopped abruptly but didn’t turn around. “What’s this all about?”
“Nothing,” Evan grumbled, still refusing to face Cain. “It’s not important. Go back to your . . . well, whatever you were doing.”
“No,” Cain insisted, stuffing his hands into the pockets of the smudged and rumpled khaki pants. “I want to know what’s on your mind. I want to know why . . .” He made a face that Evan didn’t see. “If this is about yesterday, I apologize. I really wasn’t trying to say that I thought you weren’t taking things into consideration, and I’m sorry if you thought that I was.”
Evan snorted indelicately, his shoulders slumping forward as he crossed his arms over his chest. “Just yesterday, huh? Nothing about the million other times you’ve just assumed I was a damn idiot without bothering to ask me anything first, right?”
Cain blinked, more in reaction to the raw vehemence in Evan’s tone than because of the actual accusation. “I’ve never—”
“Bullshit, you’ve never!” Evan snarled, his words warped slightly, enough for Cain to understand that he hadn’t opened his mouth to utter them. The crackle in Evan’s youki spiked, jagged, sharp, as though it could keep everything—or maybe just Cain—away. “That’s all I’ve ever gotten from you, isn’t it? The only faith you’ve ever shown in me is that you know that I’m always gonna fuck everything up, right?”
Shaking his head as though to refute Evan’s claims, Cain took a step toward his son, but stopped. “That’s not true. I—”
“Forget it,” Evan growled once more, his words galvanizing him into action as he started toward the door again. “Settle things with you? Keh! How the fuck can you tell me why you’ve never wanted m—” Biting himself off with a very decisive snort, Evan shook his head again. “Dumbest damn idea, ever.”
“Evan!” Cain called, striding after Evan to intercept him, only to draw up short when Evan slammed out of the studio so hard that the door creaked and groaned against the hinges. The sound echoed in the quiet as Cain tried to figure out exactly what had set Evan off. ‘Never . . . Never wanted . . .? Him . . .? But . . . that’s not . . . Why would he think . . .?‘
Slamming out of the studio, Evan was so absorbed in his own anger, his own emotions, that he smacked right into Gin. She squeaked in surprise as he caught her, steadied her. “Mama . . . sorry,” he muttered. It took another moment for him to get his rampant fury under control, and, willing himself to take a few deep breaths, he closed his eyes for a moment and struggled for a semblance of calm, forcing a smile that he hoped would fool Gin. It didn’t.
“Evan? What’s going on?” she asked gently, concern marring her brow as she reached up to touch his cheek. “Why are you fighting with your father?”
Giving up the pretense that wasn’t working anyway, Evan let out a deep breath and furiously shook his head. “It’s nothing, Mama. At least, nothing important.”
She didn’t look like she believed him. “It didn’t sound like ‘nothing important’,” she pointed out in a carefully reasonable tone. When he refused to volunteer anything more, she sighed and reached for his hand, dragging him down the hallway and toward the stairs.
He let her lead him through the house and into the kitchen, and she finally let go long enough to heft the giant cookie jar she always kept fully stocked. “Sit with me,” she said, her tone light and pleasant as always but with an underlying sense of purpose that he couldn’t ignore.
Seeing no way around it, Evan slipped into the breakfast nook but shook his head when Gin nudged the jar toward him. “V . . . V wanted me to try to talk things out with Cain,” he finally admitted.
“Did the two of you have a disagreement?”
He shook his head. “Not exactly . . . Not unless you can call my whole life one massive disagreement, anyway.”
“What do you mean?” she demanded, unable to keep the nonchalant tone that she had previously managed to maintain. “Your whole life . . .?” When he didn’t answer right away, Gin sighed softly, shaking her head, gnawing on her bottom lip in a troubled sort of way. “The two of you used to get along so well, Evan. I . . . I just don’t understand . . .”
Uttering a terse snort, Evan flopped back in his seat, his foot hammering up and down in a nervous kind of cadence. “Yeah, well, that makes two of us,” he grumbled.
“Did . . . something happen?” she asked carefully, as though she needed to measure her words.
“Not really,” Evan admitted grudgingly. “I mean, nothing out of the ordinary.”
Gin sighed, her ears flattening as she winced. “Evan, your father . . . He loves you, you know? I mean, he doesn’t really come out and say it all the time, but surely you know—”
“Do I?” he interjected, his gaze blazing as it locked with his mother’s. Too many memories of different things over the years—too many to count, too many to list—and the underlying knowledge that he just had never really measured up . . . “All I’ve ever been is a disappointment,” Evan concluded with a furious shake of his head. “That’s all he’s ever seen in me.”
Gin’s soft gasp was audible in the ambient quiet. She drew herself back as though he’d struck her, blinking quickly as a wash of suspect brightness entered her gaze. “That’s—That’s not true!” she insisted, the hurt inspired by his words, a palpable thing. “Your father’s just as proud of you as he is of your brother and sisters! Why ever would you think any differently?”
“Aw, c’mon, Mama!” Evan complained. Cutting himself off abruptly, he made himself take a deep breath, willed himself to calm down before he really managed to upset her even more. “He stuck me in the basement away from everyone else,” he said in a tone so low that she had to struggle to hear him. “He couldn’t even be bothered to have any pictures taken with me, ever. The only time he has anything at all to say to me is when he is telling me just what I’ve done wrong, and God forbid that anyone ever find out that Zel Roka and Evan Zelig are one in the same . . .” Pausing for a moment to drag his hands through his hair, Evan shook his head once more. “Hell, he couldn’t even be bothered to attend my college graduation, now could he? It kind of speaks for itself, don’t you think?”
“But,” Gin began slowly, shaking her head in obvious confusion, “of course he was at your graduation, Evan. Why in the world would you think otherwise? As for Zel Roka . . .” Trailing off, she suddenly stood, reaching over to grab Evan’s hand, to haul him to his feet once more. “Come on.”
“Mama? What . . .?” he said but allowed her to drag him out of the living room once more. Through the living room, into the foyer, and around the corner into Cain’s study, she led him, not stopping until they were standing in front of a small bookshelf near the far windows. On that shelf were CDs—Evan’s CDs—every last one of them, but that wasn’t Gin’s target. No, it was a small leather-bound book, and she picked it up, turning it over a time or two, before sticking it in Evan’s hand and stepping back again. “What’s this?” he asked, frowning down at it. Upon first glance, he figured that it was a very small photo album, but it didn’t seem to have any pictures in it.
“Just look at it, Evan,” Gin encouraged gently.
Sparing a moment to stare at his mother, Evan slowly lifted the cover.
Inside the plastic-pocketed pages were stubs—ticket stubs from various concerts he’d had in the area, even as far away as Massachusetts—and all of them were from his shows. There had to be at least seventy-five or more of them, all carefully stuck into the pages of the book. “What . . .?”
Gin laughed softly, sadly. “We never miss one in this area,” she admitted with a shrug. “Even the shows that sold out so fast, Cain’s always managed to get the tickets.”
Blinking slowly as he tried to understand the meaning of it all, Evan leafed through the pages once more. “I could have gotten you tickets if you’d just told me you wanted them,” he muttered.
Gin giggled. “Your father said that it wouldn’t be right, that you made your money from performing,” she said. “Besides, it’s always so exciting, being in the audience!”
‘All right, so he’s been to some of the shows . . . That doesn’t mean . . .’
‘I don’t know, Evan . . . Maybe there really is more to it than you thought . . .’
“When your last CD came out, your father and your brother stood out all night in line with all these teenagers, waiting for the store to open,” she went on. “Sydnie and I took them coffee and blankets. It was so cold, but your father was afraid that they’d sell out of he waited to go in the morning. They always make sure that they get your CDs the day they’re released . . .” As the memory faded, so did Gin’s smile, and as her gaze cleared once more, she sighed.
Evan wasn’t sure what to think of that. Bubby and Cain, waiting out in the weather, all night to get his CDs? That was entirely ridiculous, wasn’t it? There wasn’t any way in the world they’d do that . . . was there . . .? But . . .
“Your father loves you, Evan . . .” Suddenly, she grimaced, her gaze skittering away as a hint of a blush crept up her cheeks. “Maybe it’s my fault,” she admitted quietly. “Cain always held Sebastian, you know? So . . . so I told him that you were mine, that he had to let me hold you and baby you . . . You were . . . and Cain . . .” Shaking her head, she paced the floor, uttering a soft laugh that was tinged with a little sadness. “You know, he’d try to take you with them when they went to pick out the Christmas tree. But I . . .” Wincing as though she were ashamed of what she was about to say, Gin sighed. “But I always wanted to keep you close to me . . .”
“You . . . did that . . .?” Evan couldn’t help asking as year after year of memories rushed to the fore—always asking if he could go, the strange look that Cain always got on his face, like he might have wanted to take Evan along, and yet . . . And yet, Evan had never stopped to think about what those expressions meant, had he . . .?
Still, the other things . . . The explanations of a few minor details did not really change the bigger picture, and there were far too many instances of the same thing that couldn’t just be wiped away.
Gin slipped her arms around him, gave him a reassuring hug. “You know, Evan, maybe . . . maybe you should go look at the gallery—really look at it, I mean,” she suggested.
Evan shook his head, unsure why she would suggest that, all things considered. “What difference would that make?” he asked, arching an eyebrow at his mother.
She shrugged a little too off-handedly. “They say the easiest way to understand an artist is through his art, right?” she replied lightly. “I just thought that if you looked at your father’s work, maybe you’ll see something you haven’t noticed before.”
Evan digested that in silence as Gin leaned up on tiptoe to kiss his cheek. Casting him a warm smile that trembled just the tiniest bit, she left him there alone to think.
‘Keh! What the hell is there to ‘think about’?‘ Evan fumed, dropping the book onto the shelf again before turning on his heel and heading for the door. ‘Completely useless . . . Sorry, V, but there just isn’t any ‘fixing’ some things . . .’
It wasn’t at all like her family, was it? They made their mistakes, sure, but they hadn’t stopped loving Valerie, and as far as he could tell, Cain had spent much of his life barely tolerating a son who hadn’t been able to fit into the perfection of the Zelig family framework.
‘Yeah, but maybe your mama has a point,‘ his youkai voice remarked slowly. ‘Maybe there is more to it. I mean, strictly speaking, Mama sucks at lying, you know? And she really seems to think . . .’
‘Of course Mama thinks that this is all in my head,’ Evan scoffed though his tirade had lost some of the overwhelming anger. ‘It’s second nature to defend Cain, isn’t it? He’s her mate, after all.’
‘And you’re her precious baby,’ the voice shot back dryly. ‘So maybe instead of doing all this for you or for V or for whatever reason, maybe you should consider trying—just trying—for the sake of that woman instead. After all, you can’t really think that leaving her in the middle like you always do can be a fun thing for her, either.’
That thought drew him up abruptly. Standing inches in front of the door, he let his hand drop away with a heavy sigh. ‘All right; all right: point taken.’
It wasn’t as though he honestly believed he’d get any real answers out of anyone, least of all Cain. It really wasn’t that Evan truly believed that Cain was really trying to be a jackass about everything, either. No, a part of him had to wonder, didn’t it, if everything had just become a habit to Cain, that his indifference might just be something that he didn’t really think about at all.
Or maybe he was the one who had grown to expect it.
Still, there were so many times, so many instances and examples. Even Valerie had noticed, too, hadn’t she? He’d realized a long time ago that the photo albums that Gin had so carefully and lovingly put together really didn’t have even one photo of him with his father—not one. So many pictures of Gin holding him while he slept or playing with him on the floor, Gin holding onto the back of the bicycle that he’d first learned to ride. Gin catching him as he flew down the slide at the park, Gin, Gin, Gin . . .
Even so, he found himself moving toward the stairs once more, not really knowing just what it was that his mother thought he would see, unable to reconcile the sense of resignation that he’d carried around for so long when it came to his father with the strange and foreign hope that maybe, maybe . . .
“I just thought that if you looked at your father’s work, maybe you’ll see something you haven’t noticed before . . .”
Evan couldn’t rightfully recall the last time he’d bothered to wander through the gallery housed on the second floor of the mansion. Maybe he’d avoided it, knowing what was never there. As silent as a tomb, the room was, filled with the underlying odors of paint and canvas, of linseed oil and a hint of turpentine. But those smells were faint—a human nose likely wouldn’t be able to discern them. Partial walls had been constructed, hung with paintings, illuminated by soft spotlights. Pedestals of varying height were carved out of some of the structures, adored with statues of varying medias. Most of the paintings near the front of the gallery were ones that he’d seen so many times—too many to count—paintings that had evolved over time, telling the story of the Zelig family through pictures. Progressions of various family members as they grew from infancy through adulthood, insular moments in time, captured so expertly by an artist’s eye, a craftsman’s hand . . .
And Evan had to admit that there was something spectacular about his father’s ability to project such feeling. He’d always respected Cain’s work as an artist. Maybe that’s what made it all the more painful in retrospect: the idea that Evan . . . Had he ever commanded that kind of thought, that kind of dedication from Cain?
‘Entirely unfair, Evan, and you know it,’ his youkai voice chided gently. ‘You know damn well that all those paintings of you and Gin . . . He made those, too, and with as much care and deliberation as he’s ever devoted to any of his other masterworks.’
Why was it so easy for Evan to look upon those pieces, to tell himself that the devotion had gone into immortalizing Gin on the canvas and not Evan? And yet . . .
As he wandered slowly from painting to painting, pausing now and again to touch a sculpture, to run his fingertips over the roughened texture of the dried paint, he frowned. Jillian, standing before a huge window, her hand resting lightly on Evan’s arm as he leaned in to kiss her forehead, careful not to muss the wedding dress she wore . . . Bas with Bailey draped around his throat, with Olivia in his arms as Sydnie leaned in for a kiss . . . So many moments that Evan hadn’t even realized that Cain had witnessed, all captured in minute detail . . .
Frowning thoughtfully, he shuffled further on, but stopped in front of a different painting—one he hadn’t seen before. It was him—Evan—standing on a stage, accepting his bachelor’s degree, but there was something odd about the picture . . .
He hadn’t thought that Cain was there, had he? At the time, he’d brushed it off, smiled at his mother, and insisted that he couldn’t hang around for a family dinner, that he’d had plans with some friends that were leaving the next day to go home. Gin had seemed upset over the entire affair, but for once, Evan just didn’t have it in him to give in, to pretend that everything was all right. Ignoring the protests, the interrupted insistence that he wait, that he listen, Evan had given his family that carefree grin and waved a hand before darting off again. It had felt like one defection too many, hadn’t it, but . . .
But the angle of the view in the painting and the photographs that he’d seen later . . . He hadn’t ever stopped to think about that, had he?
‘Cain . . . Cain was there . . .’ he realized with a start. Cain hadn’t sat with the rest of the family in the audience, no. He’d moved around to the other side, watching everything, snapping pictures . . . and Evan . . .
“Your, uh,” Cain cleared his throat, jamming his hands deeper into the pockets of his rumpled khaki slacks, “your mama said she thought you might be in here.”
“Cain . . .”
Letting out a deep breath, Cain tried to smile. It ended up more of a grimace, though, as the strain in the air thickened and settled over them both like an invisible fog. After a minute, Cain cleared his throat once more and shrugged. “I’ve been . . . been trying to figure out why you’d think that I never . . .” he grimaced, “never wanted you. That’s never been true, Evan.”
Evan wasn’t sure what to say to that, but somehow, the idea of arguing it further just wasn’t as appealing as it used to be. Turning on his heel, he took a few more steps, his gaze shifting over the collection of paintings. Cain fell into step beside him, and neither had much to say as they slowly perused the gallery.
Pausing before a painting that Evan hadn’t seen before, he jerked his shoulder in that general direction. Tanny, who looked to still be a toddler, sitting on the counter in the kitchen with a pretty white dress concocted of yards and yards of antique white lace with two handfuls of Cain’s cake hovering before her cake-smeared face and an angelic expression illuminating her gaze. “Sami seen that one?” Evan asked, more than a little surprised that Cain would paint such a scene, given that he hated sharing his cakes with anyone. Then he saw the brass placket under it, bearing the title, “The Cake Thief”, and he chuckled.
“She saw it,” Cain remarked, wrinkling his nose, obviously still quite irritated over the entire affair. “She wanted to take it home, but your mother wanted to keep it.”
“At least she’s better about it these days,” Evan pointed out since Tanny, now five years old, had at last learned that Cain’s cakes were sacred.
Cain snorted indelicately. “Not that well,” he grumbled. “Last week, I caught her sneaking crumbs.”
Heaving a sigh and slowly shaking his head, Evan shot his father a droll glance. “That’s pretty sad, Cain,” he remarked.
“I know it,” Cain replied. “You’d think she’d know by now that her grandma makes those for me.”
Opening his mouth to offer a rebuff, Evan snapped it closed before he could. That wasn’t exactly what he had been thinking, but pointing out to Cain that stealing a few crumbs wasn’t really the same as trying to take the whole cake was rather a moot point, as far as Cain was concerned.
But the traces of amusement brought on by the Tanny discussion faded away when Evan glanced at the next painting on the wall. Another one he hadn’t seen before, certainly—a hazy, smoky, dark piece: a lone figure on a backdrop of inkiness, of burring lines and almost insular motion. As though the figure was the only thing worth seeing, it took a moment for it to sink in: the image on the canvas . . .
Noticing Evan’s preoccupation, Cain pulled his hand out of his pocket long enough to flick his fingers at the painting almost dismissively. “Did that one a couple years ago, I guess,” Cain said quietly, almost absently, as though he were trying to remember the specifics. “It was after one of your shows in Portland,” he went on, his tone taking on a stronger sort of lilt. “Not that you have bad shows, of course, but something about that one was particularly memorable . . .” Then Cain suddenly laughed, more of an exhalation, a breath, than anything. “It’s weird, you know . . . I see you up there, and then I think about other times . . . like when you were smaller and you’d drag that, uh . . . that blue plastic guitar around . . .? Or . . . Or when we made up that waffling song . . .”
“The Waffling Song,” Evan repeated, a trace of a smile quirking his lips. The Waffling Song—a child’s misunderstood version of the Wassail Song . . . ‘Cain . . . He remembers that . . .’
Cain sighed, digging a rumpled pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and taking his time as he shook one out and lit it. Staring up at the ceiling so high above, watching as the tendrils of smoke rose and dissipated, he gave an offhanded shrug. “Your mom said . . . Why didn’t you ever tell me that you didn’t like the basement?” he asked quietly.
Evan blinked and shot Cain a quick glance, but he couldn’t really tell what he might have been thinking. Just staring at the ceiling, but not really seeing much of anything . . . “It’s . . . It’s not that I didn’t like it,” Evan replied. “It just seemed like . . . like you were trying to distance me—trying to get rid of me or something.”
That got Cain’s attention quickly enough. Evan could feel the intensity of his father’s gaze though he didn’t look to verify it. “That’s not . . . Evan,” he said, and maybe it was genuine surprise that halted his words, “You liked to stay up, to play your music and stuff,” he explained. “We thought about soundproofing your room, but I thought . . .” His smile suddenly seemed a little sad, a little lost, and maybe he was second-guessing himself, the decisions he’d made years ago. “Your mom said that it’d be cool to put in a little studio for you down there,” he went on almost philosophically. “There was more room in the basement . . .”
He hadn’t stopped to think about that before, had he? Concentrating instead on the proximity, the idea that he, unlike Bas or Jillian, was being moved out of the upper levels . . . That wasn’t what Cain had been trying to do, and maybe . . .
Drawing a deep breath, Evan tried to brush off the last lingering doubts, and yet, there was one thing: one big thing . . . “All right,” he allowed, a forced neutrality entering his tone, “then tell me, Cain—not that it matters, I guess, ’cause it kind of doesn’t—why didn’t you tell me you were at my college graduation?”
Cain blinked and gave his head a little shake. “I . . . I thought you knew,” he finally said. “I mean, why wouldn’t I have been?”
Was it true? All of those things that Evan had perceived over time . . . Had he been wrong?
‘It’s possible,’ his youkai voice remarked slowly. ‘So quick to assume that your father has always treated you like an afterthought, but you know . . . I . . . I don’t think that’s true . . . Do you?‘
Always so quick to assume that he understood the meaning behind it all, Evan had to wonder just how many things had been altered by his own desire to see them in a certain light. Was that . . . Was that what Valerie was trying to make him understand?
He winced inwardly, stealing a surreptitious glance at Cain once more. Gaze trained on the image of Evan on stage, there was a certain level of recrimination just below the surface that Evan could feel. Regret that he hadn’t told Evan these things before, maybe . . .? Or could he simply not comprehend just how much anger Evan really had been trying to hide . . .?
And suddenly, Evan realized something: something he hadn’t really considered before. Maybe Cain didn’t truly understand him, or maybe he did, Evan wasn’t sure. But maybe that didn’t really matter, after all because Cain . . .
“I, uh . . . I guess I never got a chance to tell you,” Cain began slowly, shuffling his feet, rolling his shoulders as though he were trying to diminish his stature. “I was really proud of you that day . . . and I’m . . . I’m really proud of you now, too.” Then he chuckled and glanced at Evan for just a moment before his gaze flickered back to the painting once more. “I mean, at least you weren’t kicked out of college for fighting.”
Evan chuckled despite himself at the not-so-subtle reminder that Bas had, indeed, been expelled from law school for that very reason. “Yeah, well, don’t take it too hard, Cain,” Evan relented, breaking into a tiny smile as he shifted his gaze to his father’s face once more. “Guess there are things I never told you, too.”
Cain met his stare and raised his eyebrows. “Like what?” he asked almost hesitantly, and Evan supposed he couldn’t blame him for that, either.
“I . . . I went on to grad school,” he admitted.
That seemed to surprise Cain. “Did you?”
Evan nodded. “I was going to tell you. To tell the truth, I was going to surprise you by just inviting you to my graduation, but . . .” Trailing off with a grimace since he knew well enough why he didn’t bother to do that, he shrugged. “I ended up missing it, anyway.”
Grasping Evan’s shoulder, Cain pulled him around to face him, irritation surfacing on his father’s features. “What do you mean?” he demanded. “Graduate school? That’s a huge deal!”
Holding up his hands to stave off whatever lecture Cain was gearing up for, Evan shook his head. “Sami was missing,” he explained with a simplistic shrug. “She was more important than anything. To be honest, it slipped my mind at the time, and by the time I remembered it afterward . . . Well, it just didn’t seem as important as everything else.”
Cain didn’t look like he agreed. “You don’t think we’d have wanted to hear about this?”
Again, Evan shrugged, but he also smiled. “It’s not like I can go around, calling myself Dr. Zel Roka—though that’d be kind of cooler than shit . . .”
“Doctor . . .” Cain repeated, his tone a mix of wonder and amusement. “So what’d you get your doctorate in?”
“Music theory,” Evan replied simply. “I mean, it’s not like I could deliver babies or anything.”
Cain chuckled, too, clapping Evan on the shoulder. “You know . . . Why don’t you call Valerie? Tell her to come on over, and we’ll go out to dinner. Celebrate your accomplishment, even if it is a little late.”
Evan opened his mouth to tell Cain that it wasn’t a big deal, that it was fine. Instead, however, he uttered a chuckle, but there was nothing dry or sarcastic to the sound. “All right,” he agreed. “You paying?”
Cain laughed. “Sure. I’ll call your brother—see if he and Sydnie can join us.”
Evan watched as Cain strode away, watching as he dug his cell phone out of his pocket and put it to his ear before slipping out of the gallery once more.
“I want you to find out the reasons why you feel the way you do. You . . . You’ve taught me just how precious family is, Evan. If there’s even the smallest chance that you can come to terms with your father, then I want you to.”
As her words resounded in his mind, Evan’s grin widened. All right, so there was a good chance that Valerie was going to do some gloating when he told her, but that was okay. The understanding he’d gained was well worth it, wasn’t it?
‘Of course it is.‘
Evan chuckled and pulled out his cell phone, too. ‘Yeah,’ he allowed as he brought up Valerie’s number and dialed it. ‘Yeah, I guess it is.’
221: Haste to the Wedding >>>
‘The Cat’s in the Cradle’by Harry Chapin originally appeared on the 1974 release, Verities and Balderdash. Copyrighted to Harry Chapin and Sandra Chapin.
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Media Miner seems to be having issues with reviews, including looking up older ones. Sad, but I seriously think this site is dying a slow death. Starting with P10, updates will post to my blog, so if you’re not following it, you might want to, and comments are easier left on the blog, as well—and I can respond to them, too, which is nice.
cutechick18 ——— amohip
Final Thought from Cain:
A … doctor …?
Blanket disclaimer for this fanfic (will apply to this and all other chapters in Subterfuge): I do not claim any rights to InuYasha or the characters associated with the anime/manga. Those rights belong to Rumiko Takahashi, et al. I do offer my thanks to her for creating such vivid characters for me to terrorize.