Chapter XXVII: Death Returns

That winter Harwood’s life in Twinbrook came closest to what his life had been back in the big city.  For one he spent a lot of time around people, younger people mostly. He had someone to talk about art, all kinds and forms of art. Mentoring Buddy brought him back to when his every word was absorbed with eagerness only a young mind could possess. But mostly it was the parties.

Buddy’s roommate Gala was well known around their part of Twinbrook for her partying ways and since Buddy had to attend those, or more accurately couldn’t avoid them since they were right there in his house he invited his friend and mentor to every one of them.  He even introduced him as Harwood Clay and he made sure everyone attending got acquainted with Harwood’s work. Harwood would protest at first but after a while he stopped minding it. What was wrong with his fame catching up to him? It was bound to happen, was it not? And so, he went with the flow…

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One cold evening as they were in the middle of auditioning for Goopy’s Groopies, the band he and Buddy found together Harwood felt his phone vibrating in his pocket. Not a minute later he was already searching for a quiet place in the house to take the call.

No matter how much this new life resembled the old there was one fundamental difference between Harwood’s life in Bridgeport and the one he had here in Twinbrook. Here in Twinbrook Harwood was a father.  Whilst before a missed call only his agent Marla had something to say or somebody was inviting him to a party, or a club or whatever now it could be a hundred other things…

Billy was with Christy, of course. The young girl was a life savior during those days. Harwood was sure Billy had been was well taken care of. Billy loved her, and she loved him. But a call on his cell phone still cooled Harwood’s blood and made his heart race dangerously.

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“Hello.” He said picking up the receiver without even checking who had called.

“Hello Harwood.” A female voice, definitely not Christie’s spoke from the other end. Harwood recognized Dilly but he also felt something in her voice that was not quite hers.

“Dilly! Is everything okay?” He asked cautiously.

“My mother is dead.” Dilly replied trying to sound like her calm, usual self but nevertheless Harwood felt the pain that lurked behind the words. He felt the sadness pressing on himself as well. He liked the older Pidgin lady and her quirky ways. He closed his eyes picturing her as he last saw her, the day of Juan’s funeral and he felt a little bit of guilt as well, he should have come to see her more, she was the grandmother of his only son and now she was gone, both in spirit and in the flesh.

“Come over tonight.” He said. “You shouldn’t be alone.”

“Not tonight.” Dilly replied. “There is too much to do… To organize, plan… Some other time. I want to see you, and Billy.” She hung up and for a moment Harwood just felt rooted for his spot. He felt as he was struck with a fist to the chest. He heard the sounds of the party going all around him but he didn’t feel like joining it again. It all sounded so distant and alien to him standing in his little corner. He had surrounded himself with life and youth, living of their energy and strength. But that wouldn’t fool death. She knew where to come, and who to tease… Suddenly Harwood felt old again, older then he should be.

He couldn’t leave without saying goodbye to Buddy so he found him, not yet drunk enough and explained the situation. The younger man nodded and patted his shoulder emphatically saying he understands but Harwood was sure he didn’t. He was too damned young to understand, hell even Harwood himself didn’t understand…

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He was out in the back, playing fetch with Rookie while Billy was taking an afternoon nap. He had decided to spend some more time at home for a change. Goopie’s Groopies could wait, even Buddy’s career could wait, he did need to work alone for a while, find his muse, or in his case get himself of the couch. Dilly hadn’t called since the night she told him her mother had died. Harwood was sure she was busy with a thousand of things that needed taking care of. He was also sure she would call. Sometimes he thought he was being foolish, she had a boyfriend, that Justin kid whom he saw sometimes at Buddy’s parties. Yet they were a family. Him, Dilly and Billy, bound together in life, for better or for worse.

And so when that day he heard the doorbell he knew who it was and he immediately dropped the stick he was throwing and hurried to open the door. Rookie only threw him one confused look before running after him himself.

Dilly had been pacing around nervously and had wandered to the edge of his driveway when she spotted him and turned. He hadn’t expected her to smile, Dilly wasn’t the woman of many smiles but he didn’t expect the pained look on her face either.

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“I am sorry Harwood. Maybe I shouldn’t have come. I am such a mess.” She said when he neared her. She had a hat on and wore a long coat that was surprisingly dull. Harwood was used to seeing Pidgin girls sport all kinds of colors and combinations, ones most people would never put together in a million years. Her wiry brown hair was now almost completely grey. It was all so disquieting.  It was as if he was staring at a shell of the woman he used to love. There was little Harwood could say but pull her in a tight embrace and let her sob quietly on his shoulder.

He let her in and they spent a lot of time just talking. It made him realize he missed talking to Dilly, they hadn’t had a long conversation since before Billy was born. Albeit their earlier conversations had been about life and books, and art and music, and Twinbrook and stuff like that. That evening they talked mostly about death and Dilly’s mum. Harwood learned that Dilly had buried her in the family mausoleum in a very private ceremony, with no one but herself there.

The evening ended with even Rookie a sleep in an armchair and Billy safely tucked in his little crib. Harwood offered Dilly to sleep over, as a gentleman he proposed he would take the couch but Dilly refused and took a cab back to Pidgin Roost.

Dilly came over more often after that. The next time she came Harwood even made dinner. Dilly only gave him a skeptical look from the couch as she watched him go to the kitchen.

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“You made me mac and cheese the first time I came to your house for dinner. I owe you one.” Harwood said with a playful wink. He was getting craftier in the kitchen, sure he did stick to the easier meals but with some tips from the cooking channel and his new friend Buddy’s roommate Gala he was sure he would get the hang of it by the time Billy starts school.

Dilly didn’t complain. She held Billy in her lap while they ate and fed him as well. Harwood watched them together and wondered if the little boy even knew who this lady was, if he remembered his mother and the time he spent living with her at all. Even if he didn’t he warmed up to her quickly, especially when she sat on the floor and played with him and his favorite dinosaur.

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Even if it was just an afternoon, or two each week Harwood started feeling like they were something resembling  a family.  And even though loosing Billy was his greatest fear one night when they had put the boy in bed and his mother had told him his good night story he turned to her.

“Maybe we should talk about shared custody. I love having my son with me this whole time but you are his mum, you need him now and he needs you, he needs us both.” There was a sad look in Dilly’s eyes as they moved from Harwood back to Billy.  Not the reaction he had expected.

“Billy needs love and care. And he gets that here, I can see it.” She spoke with warmth but that sad look remained. It pricked Harwood’s heart with guilt thinking about all those nights spent partying while a teenage girl put his little boy to bed. “I don’t think I am fit enough to provide that. At the moment, at least.” Dilly continued. “My mother was my strength and inspiration. Without her it just seems to hard.” Harwood hugged her again without saying another word. He felt her tears on his shirt but when they parted she did her best to hide them and he pretended he had not notice. She took a cab again that night and didn’t come as often since.

And even though Harwood was sure it was over between the two of them, Dilly was seeing someone and he had found himself thinking of a certain dark eyed girl a lot these past weeks he still found it nice to fantasize about the kind of family they could have been…

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