Maria buttered the toasts and put in two different plates, crunchy ones for Mathew and soft ones for Michael. Oh, the boys are so particular about their choices. She thought smilingly. “Come on boys, breakfast is served,” she called them while pouring fresh orange juice in elegant crystal glasses.
Retired Michel had the luxury of spending time over breakfast. He, as usual, concentrated more on the newspaper at the table. Mathew came down in hurried steps adjusting his tie and started munching on a slice quickly. “Why don’t you get ready on time? You are always late and start eating before Brian joins,” Michael folded one corner of the newspaper, threw a glance at Mathew and complained. Mathew glanced back. Displeasure it was. A storm was about to break out but couldn’t, as Mathew signaled an adieu with his palm and left for office.
“Jesus has mercy on him, Maria. This boy, I say, he doesn’t know how to respect. Brian is family after all and of my age”, Michael grumbled. “Oh, he is still a boy dear. He looks grown up but, he is still a child inside. By the way, don’t forget what Dr. Patrick has said. Excitement could be dangerous for you. Your heart is weak,” Maria tried to cool her old man down. He left to call Brian himself.
Michael served him. “You look tired brother. Haven’t you slept? Oh, the swelling on your forehead didn’t reduce a bit. It still looks hideous,” his concern for Brian was visible from his words and his tensed face. He continued, “I know we both are weathered. Though we don’t look so, we are. I remember the time when we were young. Challenges meant nothing. But, Time is taking a fine toll on us, brother. See, what happened when we went on a trip last time? My shaky hands lost control of the wheels. Thank god, we are saved. Isn’t it Maria”? Maria silently nodded and started cleaning up the breakfast table.
Maria was worried, restless. The storm, pending at the breakfast table, broke out in the evening. Mathew raised his voice on Michael, “Stop it, dad. It’s either uncle Brian or me. You choose. I cannot stay with him in the same house”. Michael burst out in anguish, “You stop it Mat. See that’s the problem. You don’t feel for him. You know he is old and wounded. I’m old too. Does that mean, soon you will tell me also to leave”? “Oh, please calm down dear. You know you are not well. And Mat, how can you be so insensitive? Go to your room now,” Maria intervened. The aftermath was silent but furious. The clinking of plates and spoons were the only audible sounds at the dinner table.
It was eleven in the night. Mathew was typing swiftly on the laptop keyboard with a headphone on. Suddenly, he felt a hand on his back. “Hey mom, what is it?” he turned his head and asked Maria. Maria sat beside him and started in a low voice, “You know why I am here Mat. Your father has already suffered one stroke, which led to that horrific accident. Stop pushing him for the second. This time, he won’t be able to make it. Besides, I am tired. I cannot see the two of you fight. Brian is a part of Michael’s existence Mat. We all know what he thinks about Brian and why. If we force him to lose Brian, we would lose him instead. The doctor has strictly warned not to force him for anything. It will take time and he needs our support”. Mathew too was upset. “I’m sorry mom. I didn’t mean to hurt dad. I love him too. It has been six months. But, he has not recovered. As if, he doesn’t want to recover. He doesn’t even take the necessary treatments. I can’t see him like this mom,” he said with an urge to make Maria understand. A sudden noise in Michael’s room interrupted the conversation. Fear struck both of them. They promptly ran to find the cause.
Michael was lying on the floor, eyes closed. Consciousness had disowned his body. The empty jug was rolling beside the table as water had cascaded down. Mathew called the ambulance service, without wasting a second. His hand was shivering with anxiety and guilt. Maria took Michael’s head on her lap. She was trying to revive his consciousness desperately. Each passing minute, in front of the ICU, was testing Maria and Matthew’s patience.
Mathew was recalling his last argument with Michael. He closed his eyes and begged for one last chance. “Please don’t leave us, dad,” he prayed silently. The dark night passed leaving many empty coffee cups in the dustbin. With the first light of morning, they found some solace as good news arrived. Michael was out of danger. After half an hour, he was shifted to a cabin, and they were granted a visit.
Michael was lying peacefully. His eyes were closed. Maria pecked him on his forehead and asked in a muffled voice, “How are you feeling dear? Don’t worry. The worst is over”. He opened his tired eyes with a little struggle and looked at Maria. Contrite, Mathew held his hands firmly and asked for forgiveness, “Dad, I am sorry. You were right. We are a family and families stick together in sickness and in health”. Strong sedatives were reacting. Michael again closed his eyes.
Mathew met Dr. Patrick who took a careful look at Michael’s reports and translated it into worries. Mathew, walking down the long corridor towards Michael’s room, was recollecting the events of the last 6 months. His dad and Uncle Brian were going on a fishing trip. Michael was driving. A sudden cardiac arrest in the car and he lost control. Brian got a severe head injury. Six months have passed. Traumatized, Michael still talks and tends to his brother who died on the spot.
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