Mom passing away only fueled my obsession with pursuing a career prosecuting criminals. Her murderer is still a free man to this day.
But as disjointed as our family has been, we still find certain occasions to come together. Dad’s birthday is usually one of those.
Marcel has flown in for a medical conference in Easton and managed a couple extra days off to spend in his old stomping grounds, Westoria.
We arrange a small family dinner at the place we called home for most of our childhood.
I arrive before Dad and Marcel do. They went golfing for the afternoon. I use the time to help the kitchen staff and set the table, double checking everything is on track.
Their laughter rings through the house when they step through the door. I hurry over and greet them with hugs.
“It smells amazing in here!” Marcel says, returning my hug. “Who’s in the kitchen? Because Iknowthat wasn’t you, Delphi.”
I shove him like we’re still kids. “How do you know? Ever consider I’ve taken cooking classes?”
“I’m afraid I’m siding with your brother on this one, Delphi sweetheart. The kitchen has never been your forte.” They share a laugh as we move through the foyer.
“Two on one. If only Mom were here to back me up—” I cut myself off the second the words leave my mouth.
Dad and Marcel’s laughter dies out too. An uncomfortable silence follows us into the kitchen. Even as Dad and Marcel greet the staff, there’s a layer of uncertainty in the air. We’re lost over how to proceed once I’ve ruined the mood and mentioned the person we’re still grieving all these years later.
I try to hold things together by putting on a smile.
“You’re going to be surprised when you open your birthday present, Dad.”
He humors me with a chuckle. “I’ve told you, you don’t need to get me anything.”
“He’s already tested out the clubs I got him,” Marcel says proudly. “Beres Five Star Irons. Endorsed by Tiger himself.”
“Flynn will certainly be jealous when he sees them. We got good photos out on the green today too. My social media manager is going to use them as content for my brand.”
Marcel gives an enthusiastic nod of his head.
It’s not long before our conversation descends into a full-blown discussion on campaign strategy. Neither notice when I excuse myself, wandering off for a private moment.
Sometimes it can be hard around Dad and Marcel. No one’s fault but my own.
I get in my head and start thinking about Mom. We were always a foursome in moments like these, under this roof, settling in for an evening at home.
Before I even know where I’m going, I wind up in Dad’s office. I stumble inside the room full of endless accolades decorating the walls, tall bookcases teeming with books on an array of intellectual subjects, and leather tufted furniture that’s entertained many of Dad’s high-profile friends and colleagues over the years.
I sink onto the sofa and blow out a long-held breath, feeling like my lungs have become deflating balloons.
I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately; in the past, I was at least able to pretend. I used to be so good at it.
My gaze falls on Dad’s otherwise neat and orderly desk. A framed photograph of the four of us sits on the corner. It’s from many years ago at one of his campaign events for district attorney.
Nostalgia beating in my heart, I get up and wander over, picking it up with a small smile.
I was so young.
Around fourteen. A few months before I turned fifteen and met Salvatore. So bright-eyed and hopeful and gullible to everything.
I’m sandwiched between Mom and Marcel with a nervous smile.
Marcel’s more confident. He was already in college at the time. He’s waving at the crowd, soaking up the fanfare almost as much as Dad.
For her part, Mom is gracious and luminous in her coat dress and heels. The perfect wife to the perfect DA.