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The Neglected Son, Ch. 05: Conclusion
It wasn’t surprising that I was the first one down to breakfast.
Aunt Paula always took her sweet time getting ready in the morning. She hated appearing before anyone, even family, without having put in a serious hour in front of the mirror.
Renee had hardly shown her face in days. She kept to her room. I don’t doubt that I was partially to blame.
As for Dad and Mindy, well, they had reasons of their own for sleeping in.
So did I, for I’d been up just as late as the two of them.
But I didn’t have Dad’s hangover to contend with. He had put away a lot of Scotch the previous night. Enough to leave him groggy even without the crushed pills I’d added to the alcohol when he wasn’t looking. Mindy, likely with her mind awhirl from the evening’s revelations and events, might have tossed and turned in fitful half-sleep all night.
And me, Chet? Or Winchester Sherman Hollister, as it said on my birth certificate? I was feeling fine. You know it. Fine as paint and never better. Wasn’t my plan coalescing perfectly around me? Hadn’t I accomplished my every demented mission?
It occurred to me as I descended the stairs that I may have been losing my mind, or lost it already. Surely no sane, normal person would spend his holidays like this.
Pinewood was emptier and quieter than usual. It was Boxing Day, that quaint post-Christmas celebration hardly acknowledged in most of the rest of the country. The custom still held here, anyway. At least at estates like Pinewood, where the staff outnumbered the family. The servants had the day off. Not even Parks, the butler, was in attendance. Neither was his son, Gregor, who had presumed to fall in love with one of the Hollister daughters.
I owed old Gregor a vote of thanks for that, really. If not for catching him with my sister Renee in the dance studio, I wouldn’t have had such an easy opportunity for getting at her. The fear of her parents finding out she was involved with one of ‘the help’ had made pretty Renee willing to do almost anything. By the time she’d tried to back out, it was too late for her. And at the penultimate moment, she – first of all of them – had recognized me.
Mindy still hadn’t. I doubted she ever would, self-absorbed little bitch that she was. Ditto her mother, my aunt. They wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them on their shapely asses.
And Dad? My own father, who had divorced my mother and married her sister? Dad, who had grudgingly permitted me to make the occasional visit to Pinewood until he’d managed to pack me off to boarding school? Had he recognized his firstborn, his only son?
Nope. I’d changed a lot in the intervening years, but I still had expected that he’d feel something. Some sort of kinship, blood calling to blood. But he hadn’t. I even looked something like he had when he was my age. We had the same tall, athletic build. My hair was lighter, his auburn like Renee’s while mine was closer to light brown, but I shared the same dark eyes, the same strong chin.
I went into the gleaming enamel and chrome expanse of the kitchen. No Cook to prepare breakfast this morning. I started coffee, made toast, and was sitting down to this humble repast when Aunt Paula entered the cavernous dining room.
She was fresh and lovely in a wool dress of holiday red, with a scooped cowl neck and a flared skirt. Her dark hair – not a thread of grey – was piled regally atop her head and held in place with tortoiseshell combs. She favored me with a warm smile, which grew warmer as she saw that we were alone.
“Good morning, Chet,” she said. Her head tipped toward the kitchen and she asked in a conspiring whisper whether Mindy was getting herself some breakfast.
“She’s not up yet,” I said. “Coffee?”
“Please!” She sank into the chair nearest mine, and watched with chin delicately balanced on one hand as I poured her a cup from the carafe.
I couldn’t help grinning. She had no idea, the poor woman. Her life was about to come crashing down around her, and she had no idea. What would she say when she found out that her husband had passed a portion of the previous evening balling their oldest daughter in front of the study fireplace?
Stirring sugar into the aromatic brew, she pursed her lips thoughtfully. “This is going to sound silly, Chet, but it’s been on my mind for a few days now. Do I know your parents?”
The bite of toast I’d just taken lodged in my throat and I had to cough it into my napkin as discreetly as I could. The urge to shriek with laughter was so overwhelming that it was probably a good thing I couldn’t immediately draw breath.
“My parents?” I repeated after a quick drink of coffee.
“I don’t know any Christophers, but you look so familiar to me. Maybe I know your mother?”
“You might,” I said, endeavoring to keep a straight face.
Mindy appeared just then. I thought she might have looked awful, face swollen from crying, eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep. But she sashayed güvenilir bahis in, smug as the proverbial cat, surprisingly sexy in an oversized university sweatshirt – mine – and faded jeans. Her hair was still damp from the shower, framing her sly, impish features. She shot her mother a look of sneering triumph.
Paula, not missing this, shot a look of cool triumph right back at her. I felt her foot touch mine under the table. She had slipped it out of her shoe, and nyloned toes tickled my shin.
The atmosphere in the dining room was weighty and electrical, like the air before a thunderstorm. I almost expected to see sparks snapping in the air, our hair frizzing up in halos from the charge.
The two women exchanged barbed pleasantries as Mindy helped herself to coffee and sat down near me. Paula’s foot was still rubbing my leg when Mindy blatantly rested her hand on my thigh.
It struck me to wonder what it’d be like to have the two of them at the same time. So similar in coloring but so different in body type, each beautiful in her own way. But the notion wouldn’t hold up even in my most twisted fantasies. That sort of thing took cooperation. Mindy and her mother hated each other so bitterly that they’d never agree.
Or, trying to outdo each other, they’d kill whatever fool of a man happened to be with them. I mean, okay, what a way to go and all, but I was still too much in love with being alive.
“Well, Mother,” Mindy said, so sweetly that I knew an attack was pending. “Isn’t this nice? Just you, me, and my boyfriend. Who you’ve fucked.”
Paula’s eyelids fluttered in a series of rapid blinks. Her elegant mouth dropped open in surprise. “Mindy!”
“Chet told me. He told me everything, Mother.”
She yanked her foot from my leg as if burned. Trying for nonchalance, she picked up her cup, but the trembling in her hands betrayed her.
“Not quite everything,” I demurred.
“Mindy, I don’t know why you’d get such a thing in your head –” Paula said.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” she cried. “You’re always like this, whenever I bring one of my boyfriends home. It’s pathetic, Mother. They’re half your age.”
This last was a direct hit. Paula winced.
“I know why, too,” Mindy went on. Her eyes were flashing like twin blue flames. “And I guess I can understand it, even though it’s pitiful and sick. What I want to know is how come you never told me?”
“Told you what?” Paula asked. She was pale, shaken.
“Who is my real father?”
“Wha … what?”
“All this time, being jealous of me, thinking that he’s going to like me better and get rid of your saggy old ass, so you try to make yourself feel better by messing around with my boyfriends –”
“He’s not your boyfriend.”
This new voice, low though it was, cut through Mindy’s tirade. We all turned to the door, and recoiled as one at the sight.
It was Renee, but not Renee like any of us had ever seen her. The gazelle-like grace was robbed from her body. She stood awkwardly in the doorway, shoulders bent, arms hanging stiffly, legs like stilts. Her hair was a filthy, tangled skein that fell in stringy clumps. The dirt and oil had darkened it from auburn to brick.
Her eyes, huge and hollow in a pallid waxwork’s face, peered through the strands. They jittered in their sockets, moving from me to Mindy to Paula to me again. She wore a long flannel nightgown, white but stained, and looked like a deranged Ophelia. All she needed was a bouquet of wildflowers and a moat in which to drown herself.
“Renee, my God!” Paula said. “What’s the matter with you?”
Mindy gaped at her sister. So did I, as I realized that Renee was now finally all the way unhinged. She’d never been exactly normal, and now she could have passed for an escapee from the nearest lunatic asylum. I must have pushed her over the edge.
“He’s not your boyfriend,” Renee said again, fixing her attention on Mindy. “He took me in my studio, took me on the floor, put it in me even though I begged him not to, and that’s when I knew!”
“What are you talking about?” Mindy glanced sharply at me, ire rising in her like mercury in a thermometer. “Chet, what’s she talking about? You … you didn’t …”
“Hello, all, good morning. What’s for break –” Dad, a bit pasty but otherwise seeming fairly chipper in brown slacks and a camel-colored turtleneck, came in the other door and stopped short at the tableau. The only indication of his night of drugs, alcohol and debauchery was a forced heartiness to his tone that rang vaguely false. “Good heavens! Renee?”
Renee’s hands rose jerkily from her sides. The nails had been gnawed to stubs. She tittered a madwoman’s laugh and tore at her snarls of hair. Some wordless gabble issued from her throat.
“Quick, call someone,” Paula said to Dad. “I think she’s having a breakdown.”
“He took me, made me strip and let him touch me, held me down, put it in me!” Renee screeched. “And I knew! I knew who he was!”
“She’s crazy,” Mindy said. “Isn’t türkçe bahis she, Chet? She’s crazy and she’s lying.”
“Well, she is crazy all right,” I said, and smirked meaningfully at Mindy. “As for the rest of it …”
She launched herself at me, and fetched me a ringing punch above the left ear. “That’s it, Chet Christopher! First my mother, then my sister? I never want to see you again!”
“But what about the baby?” I asked, all concern and innocence as her parents looked on in thunderstruck shock. “You are pregnant, aren’t you?”
Her answer was a wild scream that fragmented into a furious sob.
“Oh, Mindy!” Paula said in a disappointed tone. “How could you?”
“Now hold on just a minute!” Dad said, drawing himself up. “Mindy, what did you say? What about your mother?”
Renee threw herself to her knees and lifted her arms in supplication to the chandelier suspended above the glossy table. “He held me down and made me come! Then he held me against the glass and made me come again!”
“She’s added him to her latest list of conquests,” Mindy said, jabbing an accusing finger at her mother.
It was chaos, and I stood back and soaked it up.
“Paula, is this true? It can’t be true, can it?” That was Dad, looking from me to his wife with increasing bewilderment.
“How could you let yourself get pregnant, you foolish girl?” That was Paula, angrily, to Mindy.
“My mother and my sister? What’s wrong with you, Chet, can’t you ever get enough?” And that, of course, was Mindy to me.
“You’re one to talk,” I said. “Where were you last night … Mindy-bear?”
“You saw me? You were there?”
“Enough!” Dad hammered on the table. Dishes jumped and clattered.
Even Renee was startled into silence. No one moved.
“Now, let’s get to the bottom of this. Rationally.” Dad scowled at Paula. “Did you have an affair with Chet?”
She covered her face, admission in itself. “It was just once, one time, I swear, and I didn’t mean to.”
“That’s such bullshit!” Mindy cried. “You can’t believe her. You’ve known about her lovers for twenty years!”
Dad’s jaw dropped. “What?”
“That’s a lie!” Paula said hotly. “I’ve never had lovers, never cheated on your father until this.”
“Give it up already,” Mindy said. “I know he’s not my real father.”
“Where in the world did you get that idea?” Paula gasped, as Dad looked utterly astounded. “He most certainly is your father.”
I cleared my throat. “Actually, Mindy, he is. I made that stuff up.”
Her expression as she turned to me was all I could have hoped for. “You made it up? Why, Chet? Why would you do that? Why would you lie?”
“So you’d do exactly what you did,” I said.
“What did you do?” Paula asked, her tone of horror suggesting that she already had an idea, one she most desperately wanted dispelled.
“No,” Mindy said. “No, he’s not my father. If he was, he never would have …”
“Never would have what?” Paula was shrill now, especially when she glanced at Dad.
He sank strengthlessly into a chair, his skin gone grey, looking twenty years older and absolutely appalled. Maybe he’d been so out of it last night that he hadn’t remembered, or dismissed it as the sort of sick dream that you don’t even confide to your wife or dearest friend. But the comprehension was rushing in on him now like a tidal wave. It battered him apart.
“Spanked your naked bottom and fucked you doggie-style in front of the study fireplace?” I provided helpfully, giving Mindy my most dazzling smile. She staggered and sank into a chair of her own. “He might have, if he’d been high on drugs. All someone would have to do is grind up a couple of pills, say maybe out of someone’s Altoids box, and mix them with a few glasses of Scotch.”
Paula was perfectly livid. I had never seen her complexion so floridly scarlet, her features twisted into such a hag’s mask. Her voice was a whisper as sharp, cold, and pointed as an icicle. “This isn’t true, is it?”
Dad’s wretched refusal to answer was its own confession. Mindy stared across the table at him. They both looked like they wanted to boil themselves, and maybe scour out the insides of their heads with steel wool to be rid of the hideous memory.
“Oh,” I said, as if suddenly recalling. “And when he came too fast for your liking, you sat on his face. Am I forgetting anything else?”
“You did this,” Mindy said, piercing me with a glittering, hate-filled glare. “You, Chet. You said that he wasn’t my real father, that Mother had told you so.”
“Yes, that’s what I said all right,” I agreed.
“Why would you do this to us?” Paula asked. “You seduced me – I only ever meant to flirt with you a little, never to go that far! – and from the sounds of it, you raped Renee as well. And this … this other … it’s too horrible to even speak aloud!”
“No, it isn’t,” I said, all hearty and cheerful. “I tricked Mindy into having sex with her father, and I drugged him so he’d go along with it. Though he might not have needed güvenilir bahis siteleri much convincing. I didn’t lie about the way he kept checking out her tits.”
“But why?” wailed Paula.
“He hates us,” Renee said, sounding remarkably clear. Or it might just have been that everyone else, myself included, sounded so totally insane that by comparison, she was almost normal. “He hates us for all that we’ve done to him.”
“What have we ever done?” Dad asked. His voice had aged twenty years as well, becoming an old man’s cracked and feeble rasp.
“You still don’t know,” I marveled. “After all this. I’ve fucked your wife and both your daughters – made one of them pregnant, in fact. I’ve made you fuck your daughter. What could you have done to make me hate you so much? Gosh, let me think. Hmm. I wonder, I wonder.”
“You’ve destroyed our family!” Dad shouted. Well, he tried to shout. It was a croak, splintered as if he had a chicken bone lodged in his throat.
Renee inhaled as if she was going to say it, so I paused. But she only let the breath out in a broken moan. So I cupped Paula’s chin in my hand – she wrenched away at once, with a cry of disgust – and patted her on the shoulder instead.
“You asked, Paula, if you knew my parents. I think you might. Quite well, as a matter of fact. Though you haven’t seen my mother in a long time. Maybe you remember her. She’s been married a couple of times, but her maiden name was Sherman. Barbara Sherman.”
It meant nothing to Mindy, but Aunt Paula – whose maiden name, coincidence of coincidences, had also been Sherman – looked stricken to the point of heart failure.
“She gave it to me as my middle name,” I continued. “Stuck me with Winchester as a first name, though. Some rich old uncle on the Hollister side of the family. I think you and Mom had inheritance in mind, right, Dad?”
“Winchester.” My name dragged from my father’s mouth like a corpse being disinterred from a forsaken, moldy tomb. “It can’t be.”
Mindy was still frowning, perplexed. “No, Winchester was our half-brother’s name. I remember him. He was a total loser.”
“That is our brother!” Renee shrieked, pointing wildly at me.
Whatever temporary calm had descended upon her was blown to the four winds now. I swear, the windows quivered and the crystalware in the sideboard was on the verge of shattering from the high notes in her voice.
“Our brother and we didn’t recognize him, you’ve been sleeping with our brother, Mindy, and you brought him here, and none of us knew! He found me in my studio and made me take off my clothes, and I saw it was him and I begged him to stop but he put it in me anyway, all the way in, so deep, so big, and he knew all along I was his sister but he didn’t care. He liked it that way!”
“I think Renee’s hit the nail right on the head,” I said.
“No. No way. No fucking way.” Mindy was ashen. “You are not Winchester.”
“Want to see my driver’s license? My diploma? My credit card bills and birth certificate? Want me to remind you how you used to mock me in front of your slumber-party pals and call me Winnie-the-Pooh and make fun of me every chance you got? Oh, it’s me all right, Mindy.”
I closed in on her, towering over her as she sat numb in the chair. If the chair hadn’t been there, she would have slithered bonelessly to the floor. I leaned over, lowering my voice a trifle though it still carried to everyone in the room.
“Me, Winchester, Winnie-the-Pooh, that you threw yourself at that night in the club. Remember, Mindy? I was only going to say hi, and let you see for yourself that the loser turned out okay after all. But, hey! Wow! You didn’t recognize me! Not only that, you were such a slut that you sucked my cock in the back booth, then led me into the park on the way home for our first fuck.”
She reacted as though I were stabbing her with knives. I was riding on a crest of cruel, vindicated victory.
“Two months, Mindy! Two months, you dated your own brother, and had sex at every opportunity. I got rid of some of your pills, you know. I wanted to knock you up. Hey, and after all, we’re only half-siblings, right? So the baby shouldn’t have too many birth defects. Webbed fingers or something. Oh … but wait … our mothers were sisters, too! That makes a nice small gene pool, doesn’t it? Who knows what kind of mutant you might be growing in there! Maybe it’ll have flippers, or two heads. Some nightmare monster-baby!”
“I hate you,” she said in a slicing whisper.
“That makes us even.” I glanced over my shoulder at Renee and offered her a rueful smile. “As for you, sis, I do have to point out that you were never much of a bitch to me when we were kids. It wasn’t you I was getting back at. Besides, you did recognize me. Better late than never.”
Having already spoken her piece, Renee huddled against the wall and regarded me with the wide, terrified eyes of a trapped animal.
“One more thing,” I said, as though in afterthought. “You really might want to consider getting on the pill, Renee. After that little scare you and Gregor the butler’s son had. A girl can’t be too careful. Though it might already be too late, this time. You could have a flippered, two-headed monster-baby, too!”
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