Beautiful Face

This is the third chapter of the Going Home series. The previous chapters were ‘Going Home’ and ‘Going Home – A Foundation’. Time spent on character development and life situations is required to prepare for later chapters. The first intimate passages come a bit later in this chapter. Additional chapters are planned but the series will not be overly long. Chapters will have titles relevant to the story line that should also provide some clue as to order, rather than numbers. Posting dates will follow the chronological order of the story line.

*****

The drive on Saturday morning was marred by a couple of minor accidents. What normally took an hour, required almost two. I arrived a little before nine. The front door was open but the screen door latched. I knocked and called out. My father came almost immediately, wiping his hands with a dish towel.

‘You made it. I was beginning to wonder where you were. I still haven’t made breakfast but everything is ready to go.’ He said with a smile. ‘I hope you’re hungry.’

‘I could eat.’ I told him. ‘What’s for breakfast?’

‘Poached eggs, English muffins, home fries, and ham steaks. I just finished making orange juice. Coffee is on the stove if you want a cup. Would you rather have tea?’

‘Coffee is fine, Dad.’ I opened cabinet doors until I found coffee cups. After fixing a cup, I leaned against the doorway to the living room.

‘What’s your plan for the day?’ I asked. It was against his nature to just visit. I wondered how he tolerated being an academic. He never put his feet up and relaxed. He was always moving. Even when reading, there was constant motion, tapping a foot, drumming fingers, swiveling or rocking in his chair. Anything to keep moving. It drove my mother nuts.

‘I thought we could play some tennis. I didn’t run this morning. I overslept and wanted to be here when you arrived,’ he said.

‘OK. That sounds like fun but I haven’t played since we left DC. I won’t be any competition.’ I told him. ‘And I don’t have a racquet.’

‘Well, I wasn’t counting on a match. I have several racquets, take your pick. We can just hit the ball back and forth. Work up a sweat.’ He was chuckling a bit. He had a deep-seated competitive streak.

The elephant standing with us hadn’t been mentioned. The letter was almost screaming at me. He broached it first.

‘Your letter is on my desk. I see you’re uneasy. Why not get it out of the way while I make breakfast?’ he asked. ‘But Jonas, relax. It’s just routine estate stuff.’

I stared off into space for a moment or two before I responded. ‘The estate part is why I’m not sure I want to read it.’ I stood mute for a moment as my father got busy, then turned and went to his study.

The desk was clear except for the letter and letter opener in the middle of the desk pad. I didn’t hesitate to open the envelope but had difficulty taking it out. After staring at it for a few minutes, I resigned myself to reading it.

I took the letter out and unfolded it. Law firm letterhead stationery. A check fell out. I pushed it aside without looking at it.

Mr. Jonas Taylor

3247 Camino Verde

Los Angeles, California

Mr. Taylor:

Please allow me to extend my belated condolences on the loss of your mother and grandfather. While I did not know your mother, I knew your grandfather well and admired him greatly. He was my mentor when I joined the firm. He taught me and guided me as I learned the practice and the business of law. He personally knew every member and employee of the firm by name and made sure that that all were treated fairly and appreciated for their contributions. Your grandfather believed the newest secretary was as important to the firm’s success as any partner. His passing was a great loss to the firm and the people that worked with him.

Your mother and grandfather left significant estates that my firm has been retained to manage through probate. You are named as a beneficiary in both wills. Both estates are on the probate calendar in November. Both should clear at that time. We will need to meet in person once the estates are released. I know that you are a student in a demanding academic regimen and a timely meeting in our offices may be difficult to arrange. I have business in Los Angeles in mid-January of next year. I will contact you to arrange a meeting time and place once probate is settled and my travel plans are finalized.

You are also the sole beneficiary of a life insurance policy provided by the United States Department of State. Life insurance proceeds are not part of the estate and can be disbursed upon payment by the insurer. Enclosed is a check for the policy amount plus accrued interest. Payment was not made immediately because your mother specified that the funds be disbursed when you returned to the U.S. Other arrangements were made in the event you never did.

There is another life insurance policy, purchased by your mother, that has not yet been ataşehir escort bayan paid. The insurer is denying payment because no remains were recovered or identified. My firm is addressing the matter with the insurer and will litigate if necessary. Based upon my experience with similar situations, the policy will eventually be paid.

Please contact me if you have questions or concerns. I look forward to meeting with you once everything is in order.

Sincerely,

John Barron Perkins, Esq.

I had mourned my mother’s death but it was empty and inconclusive somehow. There had been no funeral or services to attend. Profiting from her death gnawed at my gut. I put the check back in the envelope without looking at it and stuffed the letter in. I went back to the kitchen, leaving the envelope on the desk.

My father was just starting on the poached eggs. He saw I looked glum.

‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.

‘The letter from lawyer talked about Mom’s and Grandpa’s estates. There’s also a check from an insurance policy. It mentions a second insurance policy that the insurer is refusing to pay because her remains weren’t recovered.’ I told him.

‘I know generally what was in the letter. Your mother and I talked about beneficiaries when we completed the insurance paperwork. We decided that you should be the beneficiary of both of our policies,’ he told me. ‘As for the other policy, I’ll contact the attorney. Perkins?’

I nodded.

‘I can get documentation from the Pentagon that proves your mother is deceased,’ he finished.

‘Why aren’t you the beneficiary?’ I asked. ‘She was your wife. Was there a problem between you that I didn’t know about?’

‘Of course not,’ he said. ‘We both named you as the beneficiary on our insurance because it made sense.’

‘Well, I don’t think I want the money. It doesn’t feel right.’

My father scooped the eggs out of the pan and ladled them onto the muffins. Ham steaks and home fries came out of the oven and went on the plates. He placed them on the table and told me, ‘Sit, Jonas. Part of the reason I invited you today is I expected we needed to talk about this.’

I sat down and looked at the plate of food. I wasn’t hungry.

My father tucked into his breakfast without hesitation. ‘I worried about you all through the war. I know your mother did, too. We had to leave you behind at a very young age when you needed us. When your mother and I left Switzerland, there was a good chance neither of us would survive the war. We were both very uneasy about your future. We had very dangerous assignments.’

‘You were spies?’ I asked, incredulous.

‘Well, of a sort, but not exactly. You know I can’t tell you about it. I can tell you we had different orders and went in different directions from Switzerland. If we were together, we’d both be dead,’ he said matter-of-factly. ‘If I had been killed and your mother survived, you would have been dealing with similar circumstances, though I think she would be better at helping you. If we both died . . . , well, it didn’t happen. But there would have been much more for you to deal with.’

‘I don’t want the money. It doesn’t feel right to profit from Mom’s death.’

‘Jonas, your mother wanted you to have it. So do I. You suffered for our absence. We both knew the risks we were taking, not that we had much choice. We knew it was entirely possible we’d not survive the war.’ He glared at me with an unnerving intensity I’d only seen once or twice and had not been directed at me. ‘And you should think of it as your mother’s legacy rather than your profit. You’re going to take it with you when you leave. If you don’t want it, fine. Give it to a charity. But it’s your money. Not mine. Nor anyone else’s unless you give it to them.’ His tone softened as suddenly as it had hardened. ‘But before you do anything, think very carefully. You’re a bright man. Don’t do something stupid.’

‘The letter also mentioned Mom’s estate will clear probate next month. Does that mean there’s more money coming?’ I asked. ‘Was Mom wealthy? I mean on her own?’

‘Yes. You’re getting a small part of her estate, which was her decision and I support. I get the rest,’ he told me. ‘When her mother died, she left a substantial estate. Your grandfather got most of that. But your mother was well provided for,’ he stated simply. ‘And it was always your mother’s money, although she didn’t see it that way. I never asked about it, ever. We lived comfortably enough on our State Department salaries. We bought the house in DC, but never spent any on anything else. When we left for Switzerland, we sold the house. The proceeds went into your mother’s bank account, not the family account. Now eat your breakfast.’

‘What about Grandpa’s estate?’ I asked.

‘I don’t know anything about it. He was the senior partner at his firm,’ he told me. ‘That suggests he was well off. It’s a large, prestigious, and successful firm. Your escort kadıköy mom was an only child so it makes sense that you’d be a beneficiary of your Grandpa Bailey’s estate. But I don’t know anything. My letter didn’t mention his estate. My father-in-law didn’t like me at first. I grew on him after a while but he never truly thought of me as family.’

My food was no longer hot. I ate grudgingly.

We ran one of my father’s errands and then played tennis. We volleyed for about an hour and worked up a good sweat. We didn’t keep score.

After showering and changing, we made a side trip to have lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant in a poor, predominantly Mexican neighborhood. The food was very good, but spicy like nothing I ever had. I liked it. The ice-cold Mexican beer we drank was much lighter and more refreshing than the cool beers I drank in Switzerland. I had a second, my father a third.

My father had some work to do so we went back to his house. I needed to hit the books for a bit and review lesson plans for the week. He dragged me away from my books for dinner at another of his favorite spots – a little food stand that made great hot dogs and hamburgers. It had an outdoor eating area with picnic tables and benches on a shaded plaza. The place was very popular. It was so busy that patrons shared tables and benches with strangers, including us. We enjoyed the food and made two sets of new friends.

In the morning, we had an early breakfast and talked about Dad’s work at the university and my studies at Tech. I don’t think either of us had a clue what the other was talking about. But we had some laughs telling stories about undergrads. Dad talked generally about his consulting for the State Department. It sounded like he got involved in some high-pressure situations. We also briefly discussed Thanksgiving. He liked the idea of inviting some students in for Thanksgiving. Details remained to be worked out once we each had an idea of how many we would invite.

At lunch, my father surprised me. He had met a woman he liked. He insisted it was far too early to be considered serious but they enjoyed keeping company. He asked about Gwen. I admitted that Gwen and I were beginning to get serious. I didn’t say how serious. I didn’t mention meeting her in Europe. He tried to portray vague interest while I talked about Gwen. But I saw a tiny smile in his impassive face.

I left for campus right after lunch. Dad had a mid-afternoon date with his lady friend. He didn’t want to introduce us yet. Gwen and I planned to get together as soon as I returned to campus. I dropped my bag at the apartment and then walked to Gwen’s dorm. When I got there, the girl on the desk told me Gwen had left early with a friend, providing an envelope Gwen had left for me.

Gwen’s note said she had a good time at the beach and didn’t get a sunburn. She was going to spend the day helping her friend set up house off-campus. She asked me to meet her, including the address. I had no idea where it was. I went back to my apartment and looked at a Pasadena street map. It was within easy walking distance.

The address proved to be a large, rough-around-the-edges Craftsman-style house with a for sale sign in the front yard. It sat on a wider lot than other houses on the street. There was a detached one-car garage on the right. The front lawn needed mowing. It needed paint. Wide stone steps went up to a covered porch that ran the entire front of the structure. The neighborhood looked nice, mostly young families. Other nearby properties needed attention, too. A few others had for sale signs, including the one next door. There were young kids playing up and down the street. The closest to me were eight or ten years old.

The front door was open. Only a screen door blocked entry to the house. I knocked and called out a hello.

Gwen didn’t even look. ‘Come in, Jonas. I’m in the kitchen,’ she called back.

Shipping cartons were stacked inside the front door. Women’s clothing was stacked on a couch and two chairs. The couch, chairs, tables and lamps surrounded three sides of a nice area rug that had a cocktail table on it. The finish on the exposed hardwood flooring had seen better days but the wood was sound.

There were three doors to the right. I guessed two bedrooms and a bath. To the left, there was a wall of built-in bookshelves with a large built-in curio cabinet with glass doors and drawers on the bottom between the shelves. There was a stairway that led to a second floor. A stained-glass window cast color at the top of the stairs, though I only caught a glimpse of it.

Directly opposite me, was another opening with no door, the kitchen. Just to the right of the kitchen doorway was a stone fireplace that the furniture faced. I went into the kitchen and found Gwen drying dishes.

Wood cabinets lined two walls. The upper cabinet doors were wood-framed glass. There was a new refrigerator, a sink, and a large cast iron bostancı escort stove with two ovens. There was a window above the sink. The floor cabinets were topped by a brightly colorful tile counter-top. There were two doors to the right. One led outside. I guessed the other to be a dining room. The wall adjacent the doorway I was standing in had a table and four chairs against it. A door on my left led into a walk-in pantry.

Gwen stopped what she was doing long enough to give me a quick hug and. ‘Can you put that box on the counter next to the sink?’ she asked, pointing to a box near where I stood.

I picked it up and set it on the counter and began unwrapping the glasses and coffee cups in the box. ‘In this cabinet?’ I asked.

She grinned. ‘In the sink to be washed.’

‘Where’s your friend?’ I asked. ‘She left you here working alone?’

‘She went to the market. There’s steak in the refrigerator but had nothing to go with it. She’ll be back shortly.’ Gwen answered.

‘There’s a market open on Sunday?’ I asked.

‘There’s a farm stand on the Glendale Road. She went there.’

We worked and talked about the beach for about an hour before Gwen suggested we take a break. ‘The gas won’t be turned on until tomorrow so we’re cooking out. There’s a charcoal grill out back. Let’s go sit on the back porch. Want a beer?’

‘Sure.’

We took our beers out the back door to another covered porch that ran the width of the house. To the left there was a wall with only the kitchen window. Four rocking chairs sat at the far end of the porch, paired with a small table between each pair. A round, cast iron table surrounded by six chairs was immediately to the left , in front of the kitchen window. To the right were doors to what I had guessed was the dining room.

The back yard was Eden, in need of yard work. The grass needed to be cut. There was a small, fenced-in vegetable garden, already harvested. Two orange trees grew toward the back of the yard. To the right, a wooden fence blocked the view into the neighboring yard and was lined with a flower garden that needed weeding. To the left, another wooden fence hid that yard. A camphor tree grew near the fence and shaded a stone patio with a stone grill. The camphor tree’s canopy extended well over the fence into the next yard. There was a horseshoe pit and a bocce court. The lot was at least two acres, probably more. Whoever owned the place invested considerable effort in the back yard.

‘Wow! This is great. Your friend found a nice place. How can she afford it? Is her family wealthy?’ I asked.

‘No. Her father has a good job but he isn’t rich. She’ll have a couple of roommates to help with expenses soon.’ Gwen told me.

We sat on the porch and drank our beers, enjoying the quiet, Sunday afternoon. When we had finished, Gwen stood and extended her hand to take mine. ‘Come, I’ll show you the rest of the house. It needs some work but it livable and wouldn’t take much to make it really nice.’

We went inside and she led me through the rooms. The other door off the kitchen was a dining room. It had a large table with ten chairs, a small buffet, and an empty china cabinet. The hardwood floor was in very good condition. There were two medium-sized bedrooms off the living room. Both looked like kids’ rooms, furnished with a single bed, dresser, nightstand, and lamp. Both rooms had a small adult desk and chair. The bathroom had a sink, a tub with shower and a toilet with an overheard tank and pull chain in a privacy enclosure. Doors opened into the adjacent bedrooms.

‘Wait until you see upstairs.’ Gwen told me. She closed the front door before leading the way upstairs.

I stopped to briefly look at the stained-glass window, then followed Gwen when she tugged at my hand. The second floor was one big suite, taking up the entire second floor of the main house. Two walls were redwood paneled. The floors were wide redwood planks. The cathedral ceiling was stucco and remaining walls plaster. The ceiling rose about twelve feet high in the center of the room. Two copper ceiling fans hung from the peak. One redwood wall had built-in drawers. There was a huge bed in the center of the front wall. The headboard must have been built in place. It was too big to come up the stairs.

The room also had two chairs with a table between them, a vanity table with a mirror, a full-length mirror mounted on a wall and a large armoire. Everything was in the Mission-style popular in California. Two doors led to a walk-in closet lined with cedar and a full bath.

French doors and floor-to-ceiling windows opposite the bed opened to a very private enclosed deck about half the width of the bedroom above the back porch. Redwood paneled walls on either side blocked the view of the neighboring houses. Only the back yard and the far back of the neighboring yards was visible from the doorway.

‘Wow! Who sleeps here?’ I asked. ‘This is an amazing room.’

Gwen looked down. A small smile crept into her lips.

‘What?’ I asked.

‘Well, we do. If you want to live here.’ Gwen answered. ‘This is where Mike and I are going to live. I told you she was moving here. She offered us this room if you want to live here.’

Kategoriler:

Genel

Yorum Ekle

E-Mail Adresiniz Yayınlanmayacak. Zorunlu Alanlar *

*