“Don’t,” Adrian says from the door. He is uncharacteristically somber as he watches me drink. “Don’t do this to yourself, Luca. She doesn’t have the right.”
“Leave me,” I instruct him. “You know I have to go. I’d just as soon do it alone.”
“But you don’t have to do it at all,” he insists. “You don’t have to allow her to treat you as she does. It isn’t right. You don’t deserve it.”
“Ah,” I answer, as I swirl the amber liquid in the glass. “But therein lies the problem. You know that I do.”
I gulp it down, then thump my glass down on the antique wooden sidebar. It makes a satisfactory clang in the silence and I turn to Adrian.
“Don’t you have a car to service?”
I am being an ass and he doesn’t deserve it. I know that, so I smile at my oldest friend.
“I’ll be fine. Thank you for your concern.”
Adrian nods and reluctantly leaves the room. He knows me well enough to know not to push it, particularly on Fridays.
Even still, I find that I don’t want to leave. This study is my solace, my own fortress. The ceilings are extraordinarily tall in here, the walls paneled with cherry and framed with stone. It is dark, it is quiet and it feels like the safest place in the world. It was my father’s before it was mine and his father’s before his and so on. The idea of what these walls have seen, the secrets they must be keeping, is intriguing. And there are days, such as today, that I would just as soon never leave here.
But there are days, such as today, when I have unpleasant tasks to attend to.
I stride quickly out and down the halls to get this particular thing over with.
It takes almost five full minutes to walk from my study doors to my mother’s wing. She has an entire wing of the house all to herself, and many nights, I can see the lights flickering on and off in the various rooms as she is up throughout the night.
Ever since my father died, since he committed suicide, my mother has not been well. Not that she was ever well to begin with. Not truly. But she is worse now than she has ever been. Now, to put it less than eloquently, she is f**king insane.
I stand for a moment outside of her doors, and I take a deep breath as I pull the key from my pocket and turn it in the lock. I am scared of nothing in this life. But I am not fond of my mother.
I push the doors open and find her rooms dark. Very dark. Her drapes are drawn and it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the absence of light. But once they do, once I can see the silhouettes and shapes from within, I still don’t see her.
“Sophia?” I call out. My mother’s personal attendant has been with us for years. She has tolerated more than any one person should ever tolerate, years of verbal and physical abuse from my mother, yet she still remains. I can’t imagine why. I would have left long ago. “Sophia?”
“Yes, Mr. Minaldi?” She appears from nowhere, from the door leading to my mother’s sitting room. She looks tired, as though she hasn’t slept in a week. Her graying hair is disheveled and her clothing is rumpled, which is very unlike her. Sophia is not a pretty woman but she is always perfectly groomed, perfectly professional.
“Where is my mother?” I ask. Something passes over Sophia’s face and I can’t read it so I ask. “What’s wrong?”
She shakes her head. “Nothing, sir. I just don’t know that today is a good day for you to visit. Mrs. Minaldi has not had a good week.”
I look around and everything in the suite seems to be in place. There have been times when my mother has completely thrashed the place during violent tantrums. Nothing appears to be broken now, which is a good sign.
“She is hallucinating again,” she tells me tiredly. “She thinks that she sees your father. It’s all I can do to keep her contained in this wing.”
“But you keep the doors locked,” I pointed out. “Even my mother cannot escape a locked door.”
“There are windows,” Sophia answers grimly.
I startle as I stare at the walls of windows that line this room. Every room in the suite has similar windows. My mother insisted upon it when she was moved to this wing. Although her wing is located on the ground floor, the windows are still too high up to climb through. She would probably break every bone in her body if she attempted it. She is frail in her older age.
“What do you suggest?” I ask. “Bars on them?”
Sophia shrugs. “I don’t know,” she answers. “But she is desperate at times to escape, to find your father. She wants to save him.”
“Her medication isn’t working?”
Sophia shrugs again. “It is more effective at times than others. There are moments when nothing can touch her hysteria. I don’t know what the answer is.”
“Dr. Bianchi is on vacation,” I tell her. “He won’t return for two weeks. But we’ll call him when he gets back and see if there is anything we can do.”
“Perhaps a change of environment would be good for her,” Sophia suggests. “There are homes in town where she can receive twenty-four hour care. Perhaps if she is in a place where Nicolas never was, it will ease her mind. Dr. Bianchi has already recommended this.”
I’m already shaking my head. “No. My mother would never want strangers to see her in such a way.”
She would rather be dead than that.
“You are a good son, Mr. Minaldi,” Sophia tells me. I can see the admiration on her face but I don’t deserve it. And since I don’t deserve it, I don’t acknowledge it.
“You never said where she was.”
Sophia is hesitant. “She is resting in her sitting room.”
“Sleeping?” I am hopeful. But Sophia shakes her head.
“Well, thank God for small favors.”
Sophia smiles at me.
“You can take a break,” I tell her. “I’ll sit with her for a bit.”
“Are you certain?” she asks and her hesitation is back. “You might need me.”