Pressing the security code on the electric gate and let himself in and walked slowly up to the house. He saw that Cornelia had added a little vegetable patch to the garden, he was glad. He had always thought she felt she couldn't change anything in the house because his mother had lived there first. It was nice to see her adding her own little stamp on the place. Smiling he walked up the steps to the front door, as he moved forward to ring the doorbell the sounds of a voice singing stopped him in his tracks.
Beyond the door
There's peace, I'm sure
And I know there'll be no more
Tears in heaven
Would you know my name
If I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same
If I saw you in heaven?
He knew that song, word for word, yet he was certain he'd never heard it before. Following the sound of the voice to the family cemetery in a private area of the grounds, eventually he saw where it was coming from. As he got closer to his mother's grave he realised his dad had been crying. His eyes were bloodshot and his eyelashes glistened in the fading sun. Mortimer didn't really want to disturb him but it was too late. "Come, sit down", his dad said wiping his face and letting out a deep breath.
Mortimer hesitated for a moment and was about to decline the invitation, but something made him change his mind. He sat down and crossed his legs. A few seconds later he read the epitaph on his mothers grave. The last time he'd done that had been on his sixteenth birthday, just after his father had called him.
"An angel that has finally earned her wings. Be free."
Mortimer smiled inwardly, the description fit her perfectly. He had few memories of his mother but the ones he did have he cherished. Neither of them spoke for a while, both were swimming in their own separate sea of memories of the woman they had once cherished so dearly. "Why did you leave?" Mortimer asked, breaking the semi-comfortable silence.
"I was afraid", Gunther answered simply. "Your mother. . . she was a special woman and I truly felt that I could never be half the parent to you she had or would have been, that and you looked like her, so much it was too painful to hold you", he said honestly. Mortimer mulled this over for a few minutes. "Didn't you feel bad leaving me with a stranger?" he asked. "In all honesty no. Your mothers family didn't want to know, they disowned her when we got married. Said I was nothing but trouble, I can't say they were wrong. My own family were a mess. I had been dating Cornelia for a while and you guys clicked. The moment you met, you were just meant to be. It was frightening for me to see how well you bonded with a stranger over me. She was, and still is, so much like your mother it's uncanny. I used to wonder if she'd come back in Cornelia in some way", Gunther explained, brow furrowed.
"I was still in love with her. That's why Cornelia and I didn't work out, she knew it long before I did,, and by the time I realised, well, it was way too late", he sighed. "I'm sorry M, I didn't mean to unload on you, this is probably the last thing you need right now", he apologised genuinely. Mortimer was surprised to hear his dad use his nickname like that, and while he didn't let on, he couldn't have disagreed more. This was exactly what he needed, to know that his dad wasn't just some untouchable entity he saw on tv every so often, but to know that he was human. "It's fine", Mortimer said standing up, ready to go. He'd actually come to see Cornelia but he'd definitely got more than he bargained for. He needed to go home and process everything, alone. He'd call Cornelia later. Gunther quickly stood up too, noticing for the first time how tall his handsome son was as the evening sun began to cast shadows across his face.
Mortimer looked at his mothers grave, "Bye mom, love you forever", he said, fighting to keep his composure. He cleared his throat before he spoke to Gunther, "Well, I, um, I guess...", Mortimer trailed off backing away slowly, even after his dad had shown his vulnerable side Mortimer was still unsure of what to say, they were still strangers to each other. "Son, wait", Gunther said, enveloping Mortimer in a hug before he could move any further.
"I'm sorry I've been such a shitty dad, and I know I can't go back and change the past but I'd like to try to change the future", Gunther said. Mortimer heard a whirl of emotions in his voice, the main one being regret, and decided right then and there that he didn't want to feel the same emotions in twenty years time when it would be too late to salvage anything. He took a step back from his dad and looked him squarely in the eyes.
"Okay, but no rushing things. We take it slow and see what happens", Mortimer stipulated firmly, making it obvious that his terms were not up for negotiation. Gunther nodded, grateful for his son giving him any sort of chance. Mortimer turned to go but then stopped and looked back at his dad. "Are you staying in town?" he called. "Yea, indefinitely", his dad said. Mortimer nodded, "I'll see you around?", he asked. "Definitely", Gunther smiled. Mortimer gave him a half wave and then turned and headed towards the entrance to the gardens. Gunther watched him go and then looked up to sky, knowing that wherever Maria was, she was definitely smiling down on them now.