“I miss him too, Fred,” he said gently. Brad was a gentle person. “It's so odd thinking that he's gone. I still can't believe it. I go to call him sometimes, I reach for the phone, when something funny happens, or I'm upset, or bothered about something, or need advice … and then I remember. It doesn't seem possible. How does someone like Jack just disappear? He's the kind of guy who should have lived forever. Do you ever hear from Debbie?” For reasons of her own, she had also vanished. She had maintained no contact whatsoever with Jack's family. Faith didn't even know where she was now, other than in the vicinity of Palm Beach. Or at least that was where she'd gone when she left, and then vanished.
“I never hear from her,” Faith answered. “I don't know that I ever will again. I think she knows I never liked her, although I tried for Jack's sake. She really jerked him around.” She had threatened to leave him regularly, separated from him repeatedly, and never appreciated what a terrific person he was. It had irked Faith constantly, although Jack had defended Debbie staunchly to Faith for all the years that they were married. “I always thought their relationship was sick. I don't know why he put up with it. She hardly said two words to me at the funeral, she left town two weeks later without saying good-bye, and Jack's lawyer told me that she had remarried. She used the insurance money to buy a house, and then married some guy. I think Jack got a raw deal from her.”
“I always thought so too. I think it's too bad they never had kids.”
“She probably wouldn't have let me see them anyway,” Faith said unhappily, and then looked up at Brad again. It was so nice talking to him about Jack, and life, and old times. “Are you really going to e-mail me?” she asked, looking young again, and he wanted to tell her to take down her hair so she'd look like the Fred he had always loved. She was the little sister he had never had, and had always been. And in some ways, she still seemed like a kid to him, and he felt protective of her.
“I told you I would.” He put his arm around her again and held her close as they walked. She was almost home.
“You won't drift away again? I miss you when I don't hear from you. There's no one left from my childhood anymore, except you.”
“You'll hear from me, Fred. I promise. But I want you to look into schools too. The world needs more lawyers like you.” They both laughed at that. And a few minutes later, they were standing outside her house. It looked elegant and respectable, with freshly painted black trim against the brick, and a narrow clipped hedge out front.
“Thank you for coming today, Brad. It's weird to say, but it actually ended up being a nice day. It's a funny thing to say about a funeral,” but it had meant a lot to her to spend time with him. She was happier than she had been in a long time. She felt comfortable and at peace, and safe, and loved, almost the way she had been as a little girl, when she was hanging out with him and Jack. They were the only thing about her childhood that she had loved.
“I think Charlie would have enjoyed himself if he'd been there. I'm glad I went. It's been a long time since you and I talked. Take care of yourself. I worry about you.” He looked down at her with concern, and she looked up at him with a brave smile.
“I'll be fine. Have a safe trip back to California, and don't work too hard.”
“That's the part I like best,” he admitted to her. Other than his sons, it was the only thing that really meant something to him in his life. He didn't have a lot of common ground left with Pam, and was no longer sure he ever had.
Brad gave her a big hug then, and hailed a cab, and she watched him get in and drive away. He rolled down the window just before they turned the corner, and gave her a last wave. Faith wasn't entirely sure she would hear from him again. He had drifted out of her life several times. After law school, and again after Jack's funeral. But at least they had shared this one lovely day. And in an odd way, it had been like sharing a visit not only with him, but with Jack. She was still smiling to herself when she turned the key and walked into the house.
She could hear Alex moving around upstairs. She hung up her coat, and walked slowly up the stairs, thinking of Brad.
“How was it?” Alex asked her, as she walked into their bedroom, and she looked at him with a smile.
“Nice. Everything went fine. Allison rented a room at the Waldorf, and a lot of people came by afterward. A lot of his friends, and my mom's. And Brad Patterson, I hadn't seen him since … in a long time.”
“Who's that?” Alex looked distracted. The television was on and he'd been watching the news. He was standing in his boxer shorts and socks, buttoning a freshly starched white shirt. And as he talked to her, he knotted his tie.
“He's a friend of Jack's. His best friend, in fact. We grew up together. You met him at Jack's funeral. He lives in San Francisco. You probably don't remember him.” There had been so many people there, and Alex never paid close attention to details like that, or people who were of no use to him. Brad would have fit into that category for him.
“No, I don't. Will you be ready in time?” He looked concerned. It was an important evening for him. It was a dinner party given by one of the senior partners of the firm, for a new client they had just signed. And he didn't want to be late. But Faith seldom was.
“I'll be ready in half an hour. I'll take a quick bath, and do my hair. How was Chicago?”
“Tiresome. But necessary. It went all right.” He didn't ask her anything about the funeral, but she wasn't surprised. Once he knew he wasn't going, he had swept it from his mind.
She walked into the bathroom then, and as promised, emerged half an hour later, wearing a black silk cocktail dress and a string of pearls, with her makeup on, and her hair combed straight down her back. She looked more like one of his daughters than his wife. They both had Faith's blond hair. Alex looked her over appraisingly and nodded, and didn't say anything. It would have been nice to hear him say she looked beautiful, but he hadn't done that in a long time.
They left the house five minutes later, and hailed a cab. The dinner party was ten blocks down Park Avenue, and Alex didn't say anything to Faith as they rode downtown. She didn't notice. Her mind was a million miles away. She was thinking about Brad. It had been so nice talking to him all afternoon. She hadn't confided in anyone that way in such a long time. Not since the last time she had talked to him, when Jack had died. It made her feel suddenly as though someone was interested in her life, her worries, her fears, the things that mattered to her. She had found in him the family she had been longing for and felt she had lost in the past few years. It reminded her of something she forgot at times these days, that someone cared about her, and she was loved.