“What in the world ..?” In the back seat of a rough and ready vehicle which bounced wildly, Derek clung on and peered all around at the darkness and the lashing rain. “I know this place. This is Peru.”
“Yes, it is. For you, this is where it began in earnest.”
He looked round sharply. “Who are you?”
“The Phantom of Past Decisions .. although, in your case, it was never really your decision, was it? It was his.”
Derek faced front again and his breath caught in his throat. “My God … ”
Winston Rayne wrestled with the wheel of the jeep, squinting forward into the horrendous night. Beside him, a boy. A disgruntled, resentful boy, his arms folded, his mouth pinched in.
“What is this?” Derek demanded. “A dream?”
“In a way. In another way, it’s very real. It depends on your perspective.”
“Then .. why?”
“You have wondered, in moments of personal crisis, if the life imposed upon you would have been different if you had refused the burden. Tonight, you and I will discover what your life might have been. I am your companion in the past. Two more will join you for the present and the future."
“This is the night for it,” he remarked. “It could be no other. Christmas Eve. I have never seen myself as Ebenezer Scrooge though.”
“This isn’t Dickens. It’s your story, Derek. Fact, not fiction. A special gift.”
“And who is behind all this? What face is hidden in the shadows of that hood?” He reached across with one hand and pushed the hood back. Inside .. there was nothing. Only darkness.
“Some gifts are anonymous,” the Phantom remarked, drawing the hood forward again.
The vehicle bounced violently and came to a shuddering halt. Outside, in the middle of the road, a man stood waiting. A couple of seconds later, he would have been mown down, left for dead in the mud.
“Wait here,” Winston ordered.
“But – ”
“I said, wait here!”
He left without another word. The boy sat back, his shoulders hunching.
“He won’t obey,” Derek said. “He will go after him.” He sighed. “I don’t know if I can watch this again.”
“Why?” the Phantom asked.
“I have seen it once, thru his eyes. To see it again .. to see his face, the fear, the terror stamped on his expression. I know what I felt, that night … ”
The boy jerked open the door and stepped out into the storm, splashing thru the mud as he half-ran, half-slithered after his father.
“Come,” the Phantom invited. “All journeys begin somewhere, Derek, and at some time. Yours begins here.”
Heavily, Derek followed the hooded shape into the storm and then into the mine.
The boy was shivering and not just with the cold. “Father, what are you doing?” he cried.
Winston had the key in the sepulcher. At his son’s plea, he paused. And the Phantom of Past Decisions nudged the timeline, forcing both onto an alternate path.
“You’re right,” Winston said on a breath and withdrew the key. “I don’t know what came over me. For a moment .. I was going to unlock it. Do you know what would have happened if I had?”
The boy shook his head.
Winston smiled quickly. “Something no doubt very bad, Derek. You saved me. Here, take the key. Don’t give it back to me .. ever.”
“Not even if I beg for it on my knees.”
The boy pocketed the key and swallowed nervously.
“He didn’t die,” Derek whispered. “My father .. didn’t go to the Darkside.”
“The past is different now,” the Phantom nodded. “This is your life, Derek, as it might have been. One in which you never joined the Legacy. All the nights you have lain awake, wondering if the Legacy was to blame for you never having married, never having children, a family of your own … Now you’ll know. A special gift on this magical night.”
“And .. at the end, I will waken and know this is the truth .. or is it just an elaborate illusion, a manipulation of time and memory, a fabrication based on another’s speculation?”
“I have changed one aspect and now I am merely an observer. You made your life what it is now. He will make his life what it will be.”
“And I can do nothing to prevent it?”
The Phantom shook her head. “Like me, you are an unseen, unheard observer.”
Winston straightened and picked up the sepulcher. “Come along, Derek. Let’s get this put away somewhere safe.”
“Are there more of those things?”
“Oh yes, but not here.” Winston smiled grimly. “It’s none of your concern. You should be grateful.” He put a hand on the young Derek’s shoulder. “I told you to wait. I’m glad you didn’t.”
The boy smiled nervously. “I’m glad I didn’t as well.”
The scene moved on several years. Derek came home to San Francisco from boarding school for the last time.
“Have you thought what you’ll do next?” Barbara Rayne asked. “Your father has taken some time out to make inquiries about universities in England. Oxford, I believe.”
“And there I will meet William Sloan and Spencer Croft,” Derek said to the Phantom and smiled wryly.
“I have thought about it, yes,” the younger Derek replied, “and I’ve decided I’ve studied enough. I don’t want to go to university, in England or anywhere else.”
Barbara sat down. “Derek, your father will be .. disappointed.”
“Not go?” Derek exclaimed. “Disappointed? That’s an understatement. He’ll be outraged! And so am I!”
“Why?” the Phantom asked. “When your father died, he passed on to you more than his Precept’s ring. He gave you a driving need to prepare yourself for the challenge you knew would come. Somewhere in your future, the Legacy waited like some slavering beast ready to devour you whole. This Derek never received the ring, nor the driving need. The Legacy is something he is aware of but only in the same way as he is aware of the fact that England is on the other side of the Atlantic. It’s there but it doesn’t concern him.”
“But a good education will prepare him for many future choices of occupation. I could teach. I could become an archaeologist. An historian,” Derek commented. “If nothing else, I can be a student. That is an education in itself.”
“What do I care what he feels?” the younger Derek replied with a taut shrug. “He’s never cared what I feel – ”
“That isn’t true,” Barbara defended but it wasn’t quite the truth and both Dereks could tell. “Derek, your father is a good man but he’s driven by .. impulses we don’t understand because we’re not part of them. But he cares as much as he can. He wants you to .. make something of your life. He wants you to be happy and safe.”
“I will make something of my life, Mother. I just .. want to choose for myself. Is that so wrong? What use will a college degree be to me if I want to be .. an unskilled laborer? Someone who digs holes in the road because he’s been told that’s where to dig instead of someone who digs holes on historical sites because instinct tells him to?”
Barbara sat back. “Tell me you don’t mean that.”
“No, I don’t. But you get the idea. I may decide I do need to study, but not yet. I don’t know what I want to do with my life. Travel, maybe, and not to learn anything except .. what it feels like to be alive. To explore the world for the sake of exploration rather than to discover something specific. Does that make sense to you? Do you understand?”
“Yes, I think I do. To stand at the edge of an impenetrable rainforest and see the beauty of nature instead of wondering how many primitive tribes are in there so far undiscovered by civilized man.”
“Exactly! To .. emerge from the jungle to see Angkor Wat as a masterpiece of architecture, not as a site of historical and religious significance.” Derek stretched out on the sofa. “I will grow and become cynical and world-weary in time. Before that happens, I want to see my world with eyes still possessing a measure of innocent wonder.” He grinned. “If we can make Father understand that, it will be a miracle.”
“Yes,” Derek agreed. “It will. Even if we could ignore his work in the Legacy, my father was still an eminent archaeologist. It’s almost the family business. He would want me to .. follow in those footsteps, even if he didn’t want me to follow him into the Legacy.”
The scene shifted. There was a tense atmosphere at the dining table. Winston glowered at his son and his wife.
“I don’t believe I will ever understand you, Derek. From the beginning, I have tried to impress upon you the importance of doing well in school. You were a bright child, almost precocious. You understood instinctively and were capable of great leaps forward. Yet, at school, you had to be pushed, scolded, pestered and harried to get your assignments done. You are capable of so much .. yet you can’t be bothered to make the effort. You could, just, scrape into a university in England. You can’t be bothered to do that. You say you just want to travel. How will you pay your way?”
“I’ll find work.”
“Really. Doing what?”
“What everyone else my age does – I’ll wait tables, or some other kind of menial work. Father, I’m not you. I want to choose for myself. That’s all I ask.”
“And .. when you return, eventually, from these travels of yours, what then? A career waiting tables? Is that how you see your life progressing, Derek? One day, far in the future, will you retire from some restaurant, maybe having risen to the grand heights of maitre’d?”
Derek slowly put down his fork.
“Derek,” Barbara softly warned.
“That’s right. Take his side. You always do.”
“Maybe but it is how I see things .. or am I not permitted to have my own opinions either?”
“Derek, apologize to your mother!” Winston thundered.
“Mother, I’m sorry. Father, let’s be honest for once, shall we?”
“By all means,” Winston invited in a stony voice.
“No matter what I have done or will do, I will never be good enough to be Winston Rayne’s son. I could exert every ounce of effort I possess and make brilliant discoveries in whatever chosen profession I undertake – and it will still never be good enough for you. So, knowing that, at this stage of my life, I have to ask myself .. why bother at all? I have already disappointed you. I can never gain your approval. Let that be an end to it. Disown me. I will leave this house and never return.”
“Don’t tempt me, boy,” Winston breathed.
Derek pushed back from the table. “I’ll be gone by morning.”
“Derek – !” Barbara cried but he walked out without a backward glance, his spine painfully straight.
Derek turned to stare at the Phantom. “Do I go?”
“I don’t know,” she replied.
“Winston! For God’s sake! Go after him,” Barbara pleaded.
Winston shook his head. “Derek will come to his senses.”
“He’s too much like you – stubborn and willful.”
“He .. just needs some time to find himself, that’s all.”
“Winston, go after him,” she said and, this time, it wasn’t a plea, it was an order.
Winston glanced up at her. “I’d never disown him,” he admitted. “He’s my son. I love him.”
“Unless you tell him that, he will do exactly what he said,” Barbara warned.
“I don’t bow to threats.”
Barbara leaned forward and put a hand over his. “Derek is your son. He doesn’t make threats, Winston. He’s too honest. He makes promises and he keeps them.” She pulled away. “Don’t leave it too late.”
Derek watched himself throw clothes into a case. “I think I understand why he’s doing this,” he said, easing closer. “My God, the freedom … He wants to leave this house, his family. He wants to start over, on his own terms and not have to live up to anyone’s expectations but his own. If I did not know better, I would say he engineered the confrontation.”
The Phantom regarded him. “Do you envy him?”
“You wouldn’t believe how much. To have no responsibilities whatsoever ..? To go wherever and whenever the mood takes me ..?” Derek shook his head. “Who would have thought that it could have turned out this way? That .. if he hadn’t turned that damned key .. my life would be as free as this.”
“Would you exchange places with him?”
Derek laughed quietly and without humor. “If I was eighteen again, yes. I probably would. I would save myself a lot of pain and sacrifice. But I am not eighteen, am I? I am forty eight years old. I have felt that pain and made those sacrifices, lost some very dear, very precious friends. That cannot be changed. Ask me again when we see his life in the present. For now .. I will content myself with envy.”
“What of your parents?”
Derek shrugged. “They will not miss him. They are accustomed to him not being here. He may miss his mother, but I expect he will maintain some kind of contact with her. Postcards, letters. Maybe the occasional phone call. After all, I did when I went to Oxford.”
Derek hesitated. “I have always thought very highly of my father. His life, his accomplishments, his dedication to his work and to the Legacy – these were all guiding stars for me. An example I could follow. When he died .. a line was drawn. Before that time in Peru, my father was a great and honorable man. Yes, he made mistakes but he always tried to do the good thing, even if it wasn’t the right thing. Peri would understand that. Then he suffered a catastrophic moment of weakness. The Darkside tempted him for the last time and he yielded. His actions after that .. while that man had my father’s face, his name and his voice, he never had my father’s heart or spirit. Winston Rayne died in Peru. What came back to haunt me and cause such devastation in this house was not Winston Rayne. It was a cruel parody. A perversion.”
He watched the younger Derek zip the case and set it on the floor.
“But that is how I see my father. He doesn’t see him that way because his father didn’t die in that mine shaft. He believes his father is disappointed with him. Maybe he is. Maybe the fact that Winston didn’t die has changed both of them. They are both products of the times. If I were to suggest doing this now, it would not be seen as unreasonable. Many students take a gap year to travel before they go to college or university. But thirty years ago .. parents would react as his father did, and see him as impossibly lazy, not able to bear the rigors of continued education.”
He glanced round at the Phantom. “Will he leave? Will he keep his promise to go and never return?”
“Let’s find out,” the Phantom replied.
Dawn was just breaking when Derek went downstairs. Winston was waiting at the foot of the steps.
“Derek, you don’t have to do this.”
The young man paused. “I think I do. I’m not irresponsible, Father. I’m not a malingerer .. but I don’t know yet what I want to do with my life. The only way I will ever find out is to live it and discover what I enjoy doing.” He shrugged slightly. “All the time I am here, I won’t learn anything and I will only continue to irritate you by appearing idle. I may yet decide that I do need to go to university and, if I do, I will choose where and when and what I wish to study. For now, I must become a student at the university of life. I hope you understand.”
Winston reluctantly nodded. “I don’t want you to feel .. unwelcome here. Your mother believes she’ll never see you again. This is your home, you are our son. At least .. tell us how you’re doing, where you are.”
“I will,” Derek responded with a slight smile.
Winston held out his hand. “This should get you a fair distance, provide for you.”
Derek accepted the cash. “I’ll think of it as a birthday and Christmas gift.”
Winston’s hand remained outstretched. “Be careful. There’s more out there than you can possibly imagine.”
Derek shook his father’s hand. “I know. I remember what you told me when I was six.”
“If you should .. need help … ”
“I understand.” He straightened. “Tell Mother I love her. I'll write.”
“Keep a journal,” Winston advised, stepping back. “One day, if you decide to write your memoirs, they’ll be useful.”
“I will. Thank you.”
Derek and the Phantom followed him to the door where he paused to look round the foyer for the last time. Then he stepped out into the slowly lightening day and walked away down the drive.
The scene shifted, time scrambled forward. When Derek saw himself, he judged he’d aged about ten years.
“Do you recognize where you are?” the Phantom asked.
“I’d know it anywhere. The City of Love. Paris. This is Notre Dame. And .. I appear to be an artist.”
The younger Derek had grown his hair and a beard. He had paintings for sale lined up along the railings and he was concentrating on the work in progress.
“Bonjour,” someone said to him.
Derek glanced up. The woman smiled at him. He guessed she was in her mid twenties. Soft brown hair framed a heart shaped face and eyes the color of emeralds sparkled back at him.
“I apologize. Despite where I was born, my French isn’t good,” she said.
“I had no problem understanding you,” he replied.
“Oh! You’re not French.”
“American by birth, educated in Europe. Now I live in Paris .. until the mood takes me to move on.”
She held out a hand. “Sabine Taylor.”
He wiped his hand on a cloth then shook hers. “Derek Rayne. Are you here on vacation?”
“Extended gap year. Very extended.”
“So am I. Mine’s lasted ten years now,” he responded with a quick smile. “I’m trying to discover what it is I enjoy.”
“And .. it’s painting?”
“It’s something I can do to earn cash to survive. I’m not sure yet if I enjoy it.”
“My father says that work is work and pleasure doesn’t mix with it. I intend to work so I can live and, therefore, I will find something which pays me very well so I can use my leisure time for things I enjoy.” She sat down next to him, perching her bottom on the low wall. “What do you think you’d enjoy, Derek Rayne?”
“Well .. my ultimate ambition is to, one day, go home to San Francisco and open a bookstore. I know I enjoy reading and books. They are pure pleasure. But first I must finish my travels, see the world .. or those parts I have not yet seen. It is a slow business because I must work to finance the trip.”
“How much more do you have to see?” she asked.
“Scandinavia. England. Then the United States .. which is a continent in itself. When I left San Francisco, I traveled west. Hawaii, the South Pacific islands, Australia, then north into Asia. Then west again. After the Middle East, I went to Africa. Then north to Europe. I’ve been in Paris six months now.”
She smiled. “I like your life, Derek Rayne.”
“And what do you intend to study when your extended gap year is over?”
Sabine laughed. “I think it just got extended permanently.”
Derek laughed too, his heart curiously warmed. “Would you like to stay and watch me paint?”
“Yeah, I would.”
Derek looked at the Phantom who was examining the pictures on sale. “Who is she? Do you know?”
“These are really very good,” the Phantom remarked, turning back. “Have you never considered this as a hobby?”
“When do I get time to indulge in hobbies?” he dismissed.
“You could make time – you just don’t want to.”
Derek looked at the paintings too. He was surprised. “They are good. Maybe it is something I should consider.”
“To answer your question – she is Sabine Taylor, a moderately wealthy young woman away from home, parents and responsibility. She is traveling around Europe before heading back to Canada. Quebec.”
“Is she .. will she be important to me?”
“I don’t know, Derek. This is his life and I am not making any of this happen.”
The scene shifted.
“Hello, Mother.” Derek settled back, the phone nestled between shoulder and ear. He smiled. “It’s been a while, yes. I’m very sorry. I’m still in Paris. I’m painting. Yes, as an artist, and I’m selling enough to keep me alive. And .. I have some news.” He paused to listen. “I’ve met someone. Sabine,” Derek went on. “I think I’ve fallen in love. She is .. very undemanding, very supportive … No, I don’t mean she supports me. I mean she understands why I have to do this. In so many ways, she is the same. We’ve been together two months now.”
“Two months,” Derek commented softly to the Phantom. “That is hardly enough time to know if she is the one.”
“Haven’t you ever felt an instant attraction to someone? Just looked at them and known? Only time proves if the other person feels the same way as you.”
“We plan to move on together,” Derek went on into the phone. “Head up to Scandinavia in the spring. Sabine is looking forward to it. She has tried painting as well and she has started to sell. Tourists will buy most anything if it has a reasonable price tag.” He nodded. “Yes, then we are going to England. Why do you ask?” He closed his eyes. “I am not going to university, Mother. After ten years, I thought maybe you would – ” Derek sat up. “All right, I thought Father would have given up on that idea. How is he?” He paused again to listen. “I will put one of my paintings in the mail to him. I’m sorry but I won’t be able to get back for his birthday. Fifty five. Yes, I can imagine he would resent it but I also doubt he is slowing down. He is just as driven as he’s always been … After England? We intend to fly to Canada. Sabine is from Quebec. Yes, Mother, if we are still together. Neither of us are starry eyed teenagers. She is twenty five and she knows her own mind. If you can fly to London, maybe we can meet up there. I would like you to meet Sabine.”
He paused again, nodding. “And Ingrid?” Derek smiled, his eyes warming. “That is good. I write her every so often and she is always in my thoughts, close to my heart … Yes, I must go. These long distance calls are not cheap. My regards to Father, my love to you. Take care, until the next time.”
He hung up.
“My regards to Father ..?” Derek echoed.
“He has a wound in his heart, Derek, and it refuses to heal,” the Phantom remarked with a slight shrug. “There is no way to heal it. Winston wants a certain life for him, he is steadfastly opposed to it, there is no common ground and no room to compromise. He believes that, no matter what he does, he will never be good enough for Winston Rayne. He loves him but he cannot bring himself to say it out loud because he thinks it would be a sign of weakness in his father’s eyes.”
The scene moved on. London in the fall. Warm days, cool, crisp nights. For some reason, both Derek and Sabine were suddenly struck down with homesickness.
“Stonehenge was amazing,” Derek remarked, sketching quickly. “Evocative. They say it is constructed on a site where ley lines meet. Almost like it is .. plugged in to a natural power supply.” He glanced round, his eyebrows rising. “What?”
Sabine laughed. “Sometimes, you say the most .. weird things.”
“You think so?” He laughed, although he thought it strange that she thought it strange. “You .. didn’t feel anything when we were there?”
“No. Well, I felt cold and a little hungry. And, yes, it was amazing that such an old monument was just in some field with a road running alongside.” She paused. “Derek, I want to go home.”
“How long have they been together now?” Derek asked the Phantom.
Derek nodded. “So do I. I’m facing thirty, Sabine. I think it’s time I went home and settled down.”
“That bookstore in San Francisco?” she smiled.
“Maybe. Maybe .. a bookstore, a small studio where we can work, sell our paintings – ”
“Of course! When we get to Quebec, I intend to ask your father for your hand. Will you marry me, Sabine? Be my wife, share my life, grow old with me?”
She put her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Yes, Derek, I will. And I’m really pleased you asked.”
“Why?” he frowned.
“Because I’m expecting your child.”
The Phantom watched Derek’s expression. Physical pain flared in his eyes as he saw himself whoop with joy and swing Sabine in a circle.
“You’re not happy,” the Phantom murmured.
“I have always known it but .. seeing this, seeing him so happy, so overjoyed and triumphant .. it only reinforces the fact that the Legacy has denied me so much.”
“It has never refused you the right to happiness with a wife and children.”
“I know,” he admitted. “But what life do those partners have? Always waiting for someone to come home. Children who hardly ever see their absent parent. It is kinder to deny than to watch a marriage, a family disintegrate.”
“Unless that partner is also in the Legacy,” the Phantom commented mildly.
Derek didn’t respond immediately. “It isn’t .. unknown,” he eventually murmured, his voice thoughtful. “But it can cause a different set of problems.”
“Resentment. Accusations of nepotism. Favoritism.”
“I suppose so yet .. a Legacy house is a close knit group akin to family, yes?”
“Not always. Close knit, yes, most of the time. Family ..? More rare. It depends on the personalities involved. There are some houses where the members are in constant competition with each other. Some Precepts – few, these days – who encourage jockeying for position.”
“That’s other houses. This is your life we’re discussing.”
“I am singularly fortunate in that my house is very akin to family, even down to the fights we have occasionally.”
“So .. would the resentment and accusations you spoke of really happen? Or would they feel more kindly toward you? Perhaps even give you their blessing?” The Phantom paused. “It’s something to consider, isn’t it?”
The scene moved on, scrambling forward a few years. Derek hardly noticed; he was absorbed in his thoughts.
“Mother!” Derek hurried forward to embrace her. “You’re looking wonderful. You never change.”
Barbara laughed cheerfully, her eyes sparkling. “I know you’re an artist but you could easily have been a diplomat!” She looked around the store. “I am very pleased that my investment hasn’t been wasted. This looks fantastic. You and Sabine have obviously worked very hard.”
“We open at the weekend. Please, come up. Sabine is in the apartment.”
They went thru to the studio and up the stairs. A heavily pregnant Sabine smiled when she saw who had come to visit.
“Barbara, come to check us out before the grand opening?”
“A little. Mostly, I came to see my son, his wife, and my granddaughter. Where is the little angel?”
“Bella? Sweetie, your grandma’s here!”
“Bella?” Derek said to the Phantom.
“Isabella Ingrid Taylor-Rayne. Three years old.”
He turned as feet pattered forward. “My God .. she is beautiful.”
“She has your eyes .. and your gift.”
Barbara picked the little girl up and hugged her. “How’s my little precious today?”
“Been painting,” Bella replied.
“Really? You have to let me see.”
“Would you like coffee?” Sabine asked.
“I’ll do it. You should rest,” Derek said, sounding concerned.
“I could use putting my feet up for a while,” Sabine agreed wearily.
Derek studied the child in his mother’s arms. “I can’t believe I’m a father, and about to become a father for a second time.”
“What do you feel, beside disbelief?”
“Envy. He is living a life I could only dream of having. A wife, a child, his own business doing something he really enjoys … If I could, I would exchange my life for his. He looks so content.”
“But that’s now, Derek. Who knows what awaits him in the future?”
“Has he comes to terms with his father?” Derek frowned.
“How is Father?” Derek asked politely. It was expected of him.
Barbara shrugged. “Away .. somewhere. He’s even more secretive now, Derek. He has been since Robert Boyle was murdered three years ago. I’ve suggested that he get some therapy – God knows, Winston needs it! – but he refuses. He sends his best though. Hopes you make a success of the endeavor.”
Derek smiled thinly. “Do tell him thank you.”
“He hung your painting in the study. He was very impressed. Said you had a lot of promise.”
“But not talent.”
“Don’t think badly of him, Derek,” Barbara sighed. “You know he wanted you to be an archaeologist, like him. The fact that .. you turned your back on that, that you went your own way .. he was insulted. He still thinks of you as a little boy and he can’t quite accept that you can think and decide for yourself. But he does love you. Half the money I gave you for the store came from him. He does want you to succeed.”
Derek nodded. “Only because, if I fail, I drag down the family name and he could never bear that. If he loved me that much, you’d imagine, wouldn’t you, that he’d come to say hello, meet Sabine, see Bella. I’ve been back here over two years, Mother. Not once has Winston Rayne lowered himself to pay us a visit. I haven’t seen him in sixteen years, nearly half my life .. and I am still not good enough to be his son.”
“Does that answer your question?” the Phantom replied. Derek nodded sadly. “Would you still exchange places?”
“Yes. On balance .. the Legacy has taken away more than it has given. He is distanced from that, despite the estrangement between him and his father, and he is happy with the choices he has made.” Derek’s shoulders dropped. “Phantom, I don’t want to see any more. Knowing what I might have had but didn’t is depressing. I am grateful for the gift but I’ve seen enough.”
The Phantom slowly shook her cowled head. “You cannot stop the journey once it has begun, Derek. You must see it thru to the end.”
The scene moved on before he could reply. Winston strode in, halted and looked around with fierce, dark eyes.
“Father,” Derek greeted, nodding.
“My God, he is so gray!” Derek exclaimed. “He is an old man … ”
“He is sixty years old, Derek,” the Phantom commented. “Over thirty of those years have been in service to the Legacy and, like you, he has known of its existence nearly all his life. It has taken its toll.”
“I might have guessed,” Winston said. “The grand opening – postponed. Slacking still, at your age. I thought you might have matured but you haven’t. You still have to be pushed and harried to keep your promises. And, even then, you break them.”
“Postponed?” Derek frowned, glancing at the Phantom.
“There was a reason, Father. Sabine went into labor. We put off the opening for a week, that’s all.”
“Excuses,” Winston dismissed.
“No. The reason, not the excuse,” Derek corrected coldly. “I saw my son delivered safely into the world. I do not apologize for that, not to you, not to anyone. How many of your children have you seen born?”
Winston glowered, refusing to answer, and stalked over to the paintings along one wall. “These are hers?”
“They are Sabine’s, yes.”
“She has more talent than you.”
Derek’s mouth pinched in. “If you are here to insult me, please leave.”
“You never could take criticism – ”
“I could. I did! For more years than I care to remember, every word you spoke to me was a criticism of some kind. My schoolwork, my examination results, my choice of friends, even the clothes I wore. And you are surprised that I walked out when I was eighteen? I was sick of it. Sick of hearing your voice telling me what I should do.”
Winston Rayne slowly nodded. “You’re right. I hope you’re a better father than I’ve been, Derek.”
“I know what not to do.”
“At least I’ve taught you something worthwhile.” He went to the opposite wall to cast an eye over the books. “A poor selection.”
“I have time to build a better one.”
“Do you?” Winston inquired. “Time .. is a strange beast. You think you have forever then, before you know it, it’s disappearing quickly and there is still so much left to do.”
“I’m content with my choices, Father. I don’t feel I have wasted my life so far.”
“Do you still have the key I gave you ?”
“The key ..?”
Winston stared. “You must remember! The key!”
“Yes. Somewhere, in a crate in the attic, I think. I used it as a bookmark in one of my journals. Why do you ask? Do you want it back?”
“No! I just need to know you have it safe.”
Winston heaved a small sigh of relief. “Good. Well, I don’t have much time; I’m only home for a few days. If you ever decide to .. expand, specialize in old books, let me know. I often come across old books which are not relevant for the library at Angel Island.”
Winston nodded. “I wish you well, Derek.”
“And I you.”
“You and .. Sabine and the children are invited to the house for Christmas. If you can take the time.”
“I’ll discuss it with my wife.”
“I won’t be there. Let your mother know your plans.”
The scene moved on. Sabine had just put Derek Junior in his crib. “Another store? We’ve only just gotten this one on its feet.”
“Still, it’s something to consider for the future. A store specializing in antiques. Old books and .. antiques,” he shrugged.
“And maybe a third store,” Sabine said, “just for books. Then we could devote this one just for paintings.”
Derek nodded. “Yes. Definitely something to think about for the future.”
The scene shifted again, moving on thru time. Bella carefully cut the ribbon across the door.
“I declare this store open!” Derek announced. “Thank you, Bella. You did a wonderful job.”
“How many does this make?” Derek asked the Phantom.
“Two. The third is already being prepared. This is the antiques store.”
“I’m becoming a businessman. My days as an artist appear to be coming to an end.”
“Sabine is doing well. Her paintings have financed this.”
“We are still happy?”
“Yes. At thirty nine, with three children – another son – and a wife who adores you, you have a perfect family, Derek. You should be proud of your life so far.”
“I am,” he nodded. “I wish it could be mine.”
“We will have to wait and see what occurs in the future,” the Phantom remarked. “But, first, there is the present to discover.”