Jeffery walked down the foyer. If anyone bothered to look, they would have seen the tears scarring his otherwise reserved countenance. His face earthbound, his hand feeling something in his pocket he proceeded to his car. He turned the ignition and heard the hum of his Mercedes C Class engine for a while. His composure regained, Jeffery sped out the car park of Whyte and Cross Attorneys. He called out, “Office,” and waited as his mobile phone called his office.
“Listen Jenny, I don’t think I will be coming in today. No nothing is wrong just some personal stuff. I don’t know make something up, tell them I met with an accident or I am sick. Just make something up.”
He turned into his parking, number 315 and stopped. He walked down the quiet parking lot to the elevator that would carry him to his studio apartment. The world seemed strange, he never experience what daytime life was like at Time Square Heights. It was quiet, due largely to the fact that all the professionals, the residents of the building, were out at work. The elevator stopped on the ground floor. The signaling tone echoed down the hall as the doors slid open. Jeffery got in and mechanically chose his floor. Once inside his apartment he kicked of his shoes, loosened his tie and slumped down on his couch. He stared into space for a while then removed that which he carried in his pocket.
Tears welled up in his eyes as he focused his gaze on the pocket watch in his hand.
He was holding onto a gift from a total stranger, a gift from his father.
Time stood still in Jeffery’s world as the pocket watch ticked the seconds by.
The gentle drop of his tear on his hand broke his trance. The surprise and loss that enshrouded him dissipated as raw anger gushed into his being. He grabbed the phone and dialled the only person who would be able to help.
“I trust that you are well!”
“I am not at all well. I have questions that only you can answer.”
“No, seriously Nan, I need the truth this time. Not the truth that you and mom created for me but the actual truth as it happened.”
“No Nan, I am at home. I found out things that made me sick. How could mom do this?
How could you do this?”
“What I am talking about? Nan, I just received an heirloom from my father. My father, Nan, who died last month and not twenty-five years ago like you and mom made me believe.”
“Nan! Nan! Fuck! Fuck, Fuck, Fuck!
Jeffrey ripped the telephone from the wall and watched as it flew across the room crashing into the glass door, falling among the sharp shower of clear glass.
He picked up his fathers watch and his car keys and ran out of the apartment.
Jeffrey’s Grandmother’s house was a quaint little cottage in the centre of suburbia.
He parked off and waded through the neighbourhood children to get to the front door.
“Hello Jeffrey.” His grandmother greeted him before he could wrap on the door.
“Hello Nan, why did you cut the call”! He shouted.
“Jeffrey William Dalton, don’t you dare take that tone with me. You not to old to get a spanking from your grandmother.”
“Are you really my Grandmother, or is that to just a part of the intricate novella that you and my mum have created.”
“That will be enough of that now. Come, sit, I have prepared some tea. We shall sit down and discuss this matter like civilised people.” She closed the door and gestured Jeffrey into the dining room.
“Now Jeffery, about your father,” Nan took a bite from her tea soaked biscuit.
“Yes… your mother and I lied. I her told to.”
“How could you?” Jeffrey screamed.
“I am sorry son but it is a very long story.” Nan stared passed Jeffery’s face to the past that existed behind him. She dunked her biscuit into her tea, took a bite and then began her story.
“Your mother was a young and beautiful woman. She was intelligent too but then she met your father. He was charming and quite handsome. You look like him, I suppose that it is a good thing your mother is dead, seeing you would have made her so sad.” Nan sipped her tea and shook her head.
“What happened between the two of them?”
“You never questioned the stories before, why the sudden interest”, for the first time since the conversation started, Nan sounded concerned and afraid.
Jeffrey removed the pocket watch from his pocket and laid it on the table. “This is why I am suddenly so curious grandmother.”
Nan picked up the pocket watch and examined it, “A remarkable timepiece for a real piece of work.”
“There as a letter also, a letter I have read. My father has, in death communicated his version of the truth. My mother died making me believe her version. I need you to set things straight so that when it is my time to die I can say that I know who I am.”
“But you are Jeffrey, you are a wonderful successful man and…”
“No! I am a lie. Please tell me the truth. Forget about protecting me, forget about protecting my mother, forget about protecting your family pride and just tell me the truth please.”
“Oh Jeffrey, so dramatic. I don’t know what you mean. All I know is that what your mother told you.”
“You are lying, Nan.”
“Why would I lie dear? Besides Jeffrey I am an old women and my memory is failing I don’t remember much of what happened all those years ago.”
Nan turned her gaze to the window. Though she looked in the general direction of the children playing outside she looked at something very different. She searched the memories that she so long kept hidden.
“Nan. I am still here, still waiting for answers.”
Nan stepped into the kitchen. The cupboard door creaked as she opened it and removed a box of cigarettes.
“It has been a while since I have had one of these, but it seems that the past is coming back to haunt me. You are right Jeffrey; you are a big boy now and deserve to know the truth. Can I pour you a drink?”
Jeffrey raised his eyebrows at his grandmother’s offer.
“Oh you’re not in high school, you can have a drink. Besides I know you enjoyed a bottle or two even when you were in high school”, and with that Nan poured two double Jack Daniels and returned to the table.
“Okay, as I was saying. You mother met your father and fell in love, or so she said. They looked happy together for most part. They were happy, no one could deny that.” The ice tinkled in the glass as Nan sipped her brandy.
“Then why…” urged Jeffery.
“Be patient Jeffery, you did ask for the whole story. Now you just have to let me tell it at my pace. Your father is not the only secret that we have kept Jeff. When your parents got married, they were the happiest couple alive. Two years later your mother fell pregnant.”
“Don’t tell me that you lied about my age.”
“No, no, no, stop interrupting for God’s sake! Your mother fell pregnant but things were complicated and your brother entered this world a corpse.
“What?” Interjected Jeffery.
“Yes, Jeffrey before you your parents almost had another baby. Your parents seemed to go on with their lives but something was lost and everyone knew it. They were a lot quieter around each other and quiet distant. Your father drank a lot and rarely came home before dawn. Your mother became bitter and angry at the world. One day your mother woke and your father was gone. All he took was this timepiece a wedding gift from your mother.
A week later, your mother found out she was pregnant, with you. Oh damn it!” Nan dusted the fallen ash from the table clothe. Resting the cigarette safely between her lips she fetched an ashtray from the kitchen.
“Did you never hear from my father again?”
“Your father returned after a year. Where he went, what he did, we never bothered to ask. He wanted to come back, he pleaded. Too much had happened. Your mother cried a lot but still asked him to leave. She said that he had no more room to love someone who was not there for her through everything and could not risk waking one morning to learn that he had left again for whatever reason, more so she was not prepared for you to wake up and feel as if your father abandoned you. Your mother asked that he never contact you or her ever again. Your father was a coward but he as a good man. He respected her wishes and left you both with a simple kiss goodbye. Your mother kept him up to date with every aspect of your life. He often contributed financially to your life but respected our wishes and never interfered.”
The children laughed outside, shouting as they played. The occasional car was heard driving pass. In my grandmother’s living-room there was only silence. Absently I picked up Nan’s box of cigarettes. I tapped the box twice against my palm before removing one. I placed it in my mouth and carried the flame to it. We welcomed the feint sound of burning cigarettes. It filled the room, voiceless communication that said, it was time to just let things set in.
When the trance ended I took in my reality. The children were gone. The sun had set and the moon smiled solemnly in the dark clear sky. The ice in my whiskey glass had long melted and was now at room temperature. The box of cigarettes, my grandmother’s cigarettes lay half-empty on the table beside an capacity filled ashtray.
I looked up to my Nan. Heaven knows how long she sat there just staring at me but from the moist streaks on her face, I gathered that she has been tearing.
“I am sorry my dear.” The words seemed so strange, so vulgar, as it broke the silence. It took me a moment to realise that the sound was actually intelligible.
On repeating the statement I was animated again.
“Nan, why and the merits of what you and my parents did is not for me to judge. You did what you thought was right. Am I upset? Yes. Will I get over it? In time. Do I love you? Always! “Thank you, for finally being honest with me.” Jeffery picked up his watch kissed his grandmother on the cheek and walked to the door.
“Jeffery, where are you going?”
“I am going to find myself; I am going to start living again. I am taking the advice of my father or maybe it was my mother, whoever I don’t know and it doesn’t matter.”
“What are you talking about, Jeffery?”
Jeffery tossed the pocket watch to his grandmother and left. His grandmother turned the watch around and found an inscription on the back that read, “With time came Life, with Time comes Love and Time will one day bring death. Time waits for no man and no man should wait for Time. So live and Love by your heart and never know the sorrow of death.”