“Great. But gone unfortunately. Eloise is in London, and Zoe is a freshman at Brown. How are the twins?”
“Terrific. They're spending a year in Africa, chasing lions around. They graduated from UCLA in June and took off right after that. I want to go see them one of these days, but I haven't had time.” Faith knew he had gone out on his own a few years before. He was doing some sort of community legal defense work, working with minors convicted of felonies. Jack had told her about it just before he died, and she and Brad had talked about it at the funeral. But she didn't have time to ask him about work now, Allison was signaling to her that they had to leave for the cemetery. Faith nodded and looked back at Brad.
“I've got to go…. Will you come to the hotel afterward? The Waldorf.” She looked like a kid again as she reminded him, and he smiled. He wanted to wrap his arms around her and give her a hug. Something in her eyes told him she'd seen hard times. He wasn't sure if it was Jack or something else, but there was something powerful and sad in her eyes that tugged at his heart, like when she was a kid and she looked sad. He had always felt protective of her and still did.
“I'll be there.” Faith nodded, and two people came between them and offered their condolences as they shook her hand.
Brad signaled good-bye to her, and then drifted off. He had some errands to do before he went to the hotel. He didn't come to New York often, and he wanted to stop at a few favorite haunts, and go to a couple of the shops he liked. He would have preferred to go to the cemetery with her, to offer his support, but he didn't want to intrude. He knew it would be hard for her, because of Jack. Funerals and cemeteries were all too familiar to her now. And he realized as he watched her get into the limousine and drive off behind the hearse that he hadn't seen her husband with her. He wondered if something had happened between them—if they'd split up—and if that was the sadness he'd seen in her eyes. He and Jack had talked about it after Faith had married, neither of them had been enthused about Alex. He had always seemed distant and cold to them, even then, but Faith had insisted to Jack he was a great guy and warmer than he looked. And Brad was no longer close enough to her now to ask how things were. But he found it odd that Alex wasn't there.
The brief interlude at the cemetery was perfunctory and grim. The minister read several psalms, and Allison said a few words, while her husband stood silently by. And then each of them left a rose on Charles's casket, and walked away quietly. They had agreed not to stay while it was lowered into the ground. It would have been too sad. Only a handful of people had come, and half an hour later, they were on their way back to the city again. It was a brilliantly sunny October day, and Faith was grateful at least that it hadn't rained. It had poured the day they'd buried Jack, which made it that much worse. Not that sunshine would have helped. Nothing would. It was without question the most agonizing day of her life.
Burying Charles was different for her. It was quiet and sad. It made her think of her mother, the marriage they'd had, and the childhood she and Jack had spent with them. Based on her experience with her own father, Faith had been afraid of Charles at first, when her mother had married him. She wasn't sure what to expect. But she had been relieved to find early on that he had no sexual interest in her, although he had been unyielding and stern. He had often shouted at them. The first time he'd done it, she had cried, and Jack had held her hand. Her mother had said nothing to Charles in their defense. She had never wanted to make waves, and hadn't stuck up for them, which seemed like a betrayal to Faith. All her mother had wanted was for everything to work, no matter what it took, whether she had to sacrifice herself or Faith or Jack. She deferred to Charles about everything, even her own kids. It was Jack who had always protected Faith. He had been her hero all his life until the day he died. It made her think of Brad again, and how pleased she was that he had come. Seeing him at the hotel was something to look forward to, as she tried to turn her thoughts away from painful memories. There were far too many of them.
The car pulled up outside the hotel, and Faith and Allison agreed to let it go then. Faith could either walk or take a taxi home, and Allison and Bertrand were going to take a cab to the airport at six o'clock. All they had left to do now as part of Charles's funeral was spend a few hours with his friends. As they walked into the hotel, Allison was still holding the folded flag they had taken off his casket at the cemetery. It made her look like a war widow, Faith thought, as they walked across the lobby, and took the elevator upstairs.
The room Allison had rented for the afternoon was simple and elegant. There was a grand piano in one corner, and a buffet covered with sandwiches, cookies, and cakes. There was coffee, and a waiter offering people drinks and wine. What she had provided to eat was basic but adequate, and the first people began to arrive almost as soon as Faith hung up her coat. And she was relieved to see that Brad was the third one there.
She just stood and smiled at him for a minute as he crossed the room to her. It made her think of how gangly he had been as a kid. He had always towered over her, and when she was really young, he used to throw her in the air, or push her on the swing. He had always been part of the furniture of her childhood and teenage years.
“How did it go?” he asked her, as a waiter handed him a glass of white wine and he took a sip.
“Okay. I don't do funerals anymore, if I can help it. But I couldn't avoid this. I hate cemeteries,” she said, with a fleeting frown, and they both knew why.
“Yeah, I don't like them much myself. Where's Alex, by the way?” Their eyes met and held, he was asking her more than just that, and she sighed and then smiled.
“He had to go to Chicago to see clients. He'll be back tonight.” There was nothing critical in her tone, but Brad thought he should have been there, for her. It annoyed him on her behalf that he wasn't, but he was also glad. It gave him time alone with her, to talk and catch up. It had been far too long since they'd talked.
“That's too bad. That he's in Chicago, I mean. How's everything else?” He perched on the arm of a chair, and was almost the same height as Faith as she stood and they talked.
“Okay, I guess. It's weird having both of the girls gone. I don't know what to do with myself. I keep saying I'll go to work, but I don't have any marketable skills. I was thinking of going back to law school, but Alex thinks I'm nuts. He says I'm too old to go back to school, or pass the bar.”
“At your age? Lots of people do. Why wouldn't you?”
“He says by the time I pass the bar, no one will hire me anyway.” Just hearing her say it annoyed Brad. He had never liked Alex anyway.
“That's nonsense. You'd make a great lawyer, Fred. I think you should.” She smiled in answer, and didn't try to explain to him how impossible it would be to convince Alex of that. He was a stubborn man.
“Alex thinks I should just stay home and relax, take bridge lessons, or something like that.” It sounded deadly to her, and Brad agreed. As he looked at her, he was remembering her long blond hair when she was a kid, and wished he could pull the pins out of her bun, for old times' sake. He had always loved her hair.
“You'd be bored to death. I think school is definitely the right idea. You ought to look into it.” It was exactly what Jack would have said, and it sparked her enthusiasm again, as a fresh group of people walked in, and she went to greet them. She recognized several faces, and thanked them for coming, and a little while later, she came back to Brad.