The second Ben glimpsed the Lady, images from the movie the Great Gatsby flittered through his mind coupled along with the plot of the Hounds of the Baskervilles. The traditional English country manor sparkled with art deco touches. Ivy clung to brick. Marble married stone. The green lawn was so sharply cut, that it was easy to believe that the fountain statue poised for flight, her body crouched, her arms spread wide with her gown flaring behind her as if she had wings, did so because the grass pricked her feet. The mansion gave off a feeling of an optical illusion. If you looked one way you'd see a young woman's face. If you glanced again, you saw an old hag. It was too beautiful to call a ruin. And yet, there was something ruinous about it. He just couldn't say why.
When he stepped through the ornate stain glass doorway, he drew in a quick intake of breath. The interior was pristine. Lived in.
The foyer had a simple coat rack next to a long rug decorated with egrets. Take a few steps inward and he entered an art gallery. His mother's favorite pieces, thought to be sold, astounded him like long lost family. From behind the watercolor "Petals on a wet, black bough," Kevin appeared, worn as a watermark. His lean frame was that much leaner. The black curls of his hair were that much wilder. There was at least a week's worth of stubble on his face. Poor sensitive, deceitful, Kevin, thought Ben as too many memories warred with each other.
Shock saved him from doing or saying something disastrous. Kevin quickly filled the gap.
"I didn't steal from her or you. I used all the money on this-on bringing the Lady of the Lake back to life. I wanted to bring Mom here and surprise her. I wasn't fast enough." Kevin said.
Ben clenched his fist. He unclenched them. He wasn't ready for words.
"Look around you Ben, if you don't believe me. You'll see it's true."
Ben cleared his throat of emotion. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I'm telling you now."
Ben felt the pull of Kevin's sea fever eyes.
A grey mist on a grey dawn breaking, how many times had their mother used that description to romanticize that particularly anguished look?
He wanted to believe Kevin. The proof was right here, in this house. But there had been other proof too, documents and dates. And then there was history.
"Are you using?" Ben cleared his throat again. "I have to ask."
"Will you submit to a drug test?"
"Wow. I'll see you at the funeral. I'll make sure my lawyer gives your lawyer copies of the receipts and then why not have them roll dice for her garments." Kevin turned to walk away.
Ben sprinted to stop him. "Wait! Kevin, I'm sorry."
"I didn't tell you because I thought I failed ok? I stupidly thought that if I could get it done in time, have her see it, she would live. I thought that. I needed to think that. You were only there that last week and on holidays and shit. I was there for the last three years. Three years! Each day watching her get sicker and weaker. Am I using? Wow…maybe…I should be."
"I apologize. I was wrong to ask. Tell me what I can do to make it right."
Kevin rubbed his face in answer, like it pained him to keep looking at Ben. "I'm not one of your clients. I'm your brother and you can't make it right because she's dead. I'm going for a walk. Why don't you explore the rest of the house. My room has my stuff in it. You can pick whatever other room you want. If you really want to help me, I made a close friend while Mom was in and out of the hospital, her name is Frannie. She's twelve. I don't want to get into it with you now, but I want to adopt her. You make sure that goes smoothly, and we'll call it even." Kevin started for the door.
"You can't keep dropping bombshells and leave." Ben called.
"Watch me." As Kevin slammed the door, rainbows from the stain glass scattered across the hardwood floor.