Pounding, he heard. Confused rather than alarmed, he batted his long lashes apart and frowned to himself. Was somebody pounding on his front door? The world felt to spiral around him while he noticed that drool had spilled into his beard. To wipe it away, he used his trembling right hand.
His confusion was severe. He was entirely faded. Is somebody pounding on my door? he asked himself again. Who? He wasn’t expecting visitors. While rubbing his face, he scrambled out of his black leather sofa and staggered toward the door. He was drunk out of his senses, but that didn’t prevent him from practicing at least a portion of caution. After pressing a button of his fancy alarm system, he saw the screen of it live stream two figures outside his door. His frown intensified upon the sight. Outside stood his mother and his sister. What were they doing here?
He shut his eyes and inhaled deeply. It was difficult to think clearly. Everything felt faded and blurred. They couldn’t see him like this, so what would he do? He could ignore them; pretend that he was abroad.
“Leonardo William Brandon! I know you’re in there!” Kathryn’s authoritative voice shouted loudly from outside. The sound of it made him cringe. He hadn’t heard her speak to him like that in over fifteen years. Suddenly, he was sent years into the past, to when he had been fourteen and arrived after his curfew.
What did she want? How did she know that he was home? She wasn’t aware of his schedule?
“You have better open this bloody door immediately!” she continued furiously. Shivers ran down his spine before he shuddered to himself. What the fuck? Repeatedly, he slapped his face in an attempt to sharpen his mind. How to handle this?
Kathryn rattled the door handle then. Panic seized him. There was no way out of this, he realised. He knew his mother. She wouldn’t relent until she made it in. If he didn’t open the door, she wouldn’t hesitate to call the police to break through it. She was that sort of person. Innocently, she would lie to them and say that she had worried he was dead.
“Just a minute!” he shouted back and turned to assess the state of his flat. He paled upon the sight. Empty bottles of scotch were decorating his entire coffee table, as well as empty take-out containers. The place hadn’t been cleaned or hoovered in at least a month, either. Shit. Fuck.
Sprinting clumsily into his kitchen, he grabbed the nearest plastic bag. While holding the bag with his left hand, he used his right arm to sweep the rubbish standing on his kitchen counter into it with one quick motion. Multiple items, as well as a few glasses, fell to the floor around the bag.
“Fuck,” he cursed upon the loud noises and squatted to collect the splinters of the broken glasses. Kathryn rattled the door handle again. He didn’t have time for this. “Shit. Bollocks,” he continued to swear and rushed for his broom. With haste, he swept the splinters into the dustpan and then dropped them into the plastic bag. Next he scurried into his living area and tossed the bottles and empty cartons into the bag as well.
Afterward, he staggered down the spiralling staircase to store the bag in his bedroom. He hid it behind one of his beige lounge chairs in the room and then headed for the bathroom to grab his toothbrush. As he brushed his teeth, he stared at himself in the mirror. “Christ,” he moaned. He looked totally off his face. He wouldn’t fool his mother at all.
He grabbed his cologne. With the squared bottle in his hand, he paused. His eyes widened and his heart clenched in his chest. Keira’s favourite, he thought to himself. Agony he had tried to drink out of his system returned in a heartbeat. Frozen, he stared at the object and felt his feelings rule him.
“No,” he whimpered while squeezing his eyes shut. He couldn’t think of her. It was too painful. Regardless, he sprayed on a faint amount and mentally cursed the memories that the scent accompanied. But fooling his mother was more important right now.
He could feel his face pulsate when he climbed up the stairs again. The world still spiralled around him. It proved mighty difficult to maintain a steady gaze upon the front door. His pulse was spiked with his level of dread.
Finally, he reached the door. After a deep breath, he grabbed the handle as well as the lock and turned both. He was nearly knocked over when Adella impatiently pressed her way through the door with a suitcase trailing behind her. Kathryn followed promptly.
Kathryn gasped. “Jesus Christ, Leonardo.” Her blue eyes studied him from head to toes.
He grimaced and failed to recognise that he was swaying where he stood. While avoiding her eyes, he raised a hand to rub the back of his head.
“Why are you here?” he muttered annoyed.
Adella blinked beside their mother, clearly gobsmacked. She couldn’t mouth as much as a word. Their mother was much swifter with her reaction. After three determined strides, Kathryn halted before his figure and clasped his strong jaw in her familiar hand. Strict and scolding, she stared into his eyes.
“You look to have drowned in a barrel of whiskey, Leonardo. I am beyond disappointed,” she uttered irate and removed her hand to pay his cheek a slap. It wasn’t too hard, but it was definitely a slap. And Kathryn had never been one for domestic violence. “How could you possibly let yourself reach this state?” she continued harshly.
“Mum,” Adella intervened softly. “Don’t be so hard on him.”
Kathryn inhaled deeply. For a long while, she merely glared at her eldest child. Then, after what seemed like dreadful minutes, she nodded her head and allowed her eyes to scan the area.
“It bloody reeks in here. And so do you, Leonardo. When was the last time you had a shower?” she asked surly.
“Mum, why are you here?” he repeated impatient. “Had I known you were coming, I would have-“
“That is exactly why we didn’t notify you beforehand,” she interrupted him with a voice of steel. “Christopher called me today. He’s very worried about you. Apparently, you’re still capable of maintaining your workload, but according to him, every other part of your life has deteriorated. And now I can see for myself what he meant. You look awful!”
Christopher had called her? Jesus Christ. Leonardo would have his balls on a platter for this. What betrayal. What an utter arsehole.
Kathryn continued before he could reply. “Have a shower, Leo. Sober up. This is beneath you. You might love her, but to let it get to you like this… I am lost for words.” From the tone of her voice, he could hear that her anger had subsided. Glancing at her, he saw both pity and concern reside in her beautiful features.
“Yeah.” He sighed and glimpsed over at Adella. “Why have you got a suitcase with you?”
Adella pursed her lips and looked to their mother. Kathryn inhaled deeply and folded her arms under her breasts. “Because your sister will be living with you for the time being. Until you show signs of improvement, she won’t move out. It’s not up for debate.”
Leonardo’s eyes widened and his lips parted. Shocked, he stared at his mother. “Are you having a laugh, Mum? I’m a bloody adult! I can take care of myself!”
“Really?” she asked venomously and eyed him from head to toes again.
Thoroughly exasperated, he ran his hands through his hair. “Shit! Fuck! You have got to be kidding me!”
“Shower. Now,” she ordered and pointed toward the staircase.
Moaning and walking in circles, he tugged his hair and looked to the heavens for aid. “You’re totally overreacting!”
“Leonardo, I think you should listen. You’re not seeing yourself clearly,” Adella murmured sympathetically. She had always known how to speak to her brother in order to reach him. Adella and Leonardo had always shared a most unique bond.
“Fine,” he growled and staggered toward the staircase. Adella and Kathryn stared worriedly after him. It felt like their eyes were penetrating his back when he paced down the stairs.
When he had finished his shower, he heard Adella’s voice call for their mother just outside. “Mum! You need to see this!” In the background, he could hear the sound of his hoover. Were they cleaning his flat?
Alarmed by what Adella had stated, Leonardo rushed for the door in only his towel and ripped the door open between them. While glaring at his sister, he saw the bag of rubbish in her hands. “Do not, Adella,” he warned her menacingly. “I won’t forgive you.”
He saw her swallow a lump in her throat before Kathryn stopped hoovering upstairs. “Did you call for me, darling?” their mother yelled down the stairs.
“N-no! It was nothing,” Adella retorted and broke contact with Leonardo’s eyes. He sighed in relief and stared grateful upon her. There was a limit to what their mother needed to know. She had seen enough already.
“Alright! Is Leo out of the shower yet? You make sure he doesn’t drown in there, sweetheart!” Kathryn called back.
“Yeah!” Adella replied and gazed back to her brother. When the hoover started again, she spoke directly to him. “Seriously, Leo?” Her eyes were wide with her disbelief.
He grimaced upset and looked away from her. Ashamed, he was. She wasn’t supposed to see him like this. He had always been the one to take care of her. It wasn’t supposed to be the other way around. Ever.
Adella shook her head to herself and paced into his walk-in-closet with the plastic bag. Confused by her actions, he paced after her. Inside, he saw her hide the bag within his dirty laundry bin.
“Clever,” he commented impressed.
“Well, unlike you, I was a rebellious teenager once,” she retorted before a sigh escaped her. “Leo, you look like shit. That beard has got to go,” she continued and turned to face him.
“I’ll take care of it tomorrow,” he murmured ashamed and looked away from her. She stared at him for a long while before she approached his drunken figure. When she reached him, she wrapped her hand around his much larger one to drag him toward his bathroom again.
“What are you doing?” he asked bewildered from behind her. She halted before the toilet and shut the lid with her free hand.
“Have a seat,” she softly said and pointed to it.
He was too drunk to prove much of a challenge, so he obeyed her command despite his confusion. While seated on the toilet, he ensured that the towel that he was wearing wouldn’t reveal his genitals. Afterward, he saw Adella search through the drawers beneath his basin. When she withdrew his shaving machine, he sighed to himself.
“Really, Adella. I’m not helpless,” he said and groaned upon her intention.
“Forgive me if I’m not convinced.” She scoffed and squatted between his legs. “Hold still now,” she murmured while switching on the machine. He rolled his eyes at her, but held perfectly still nonetheless.
“Have you had dinner today?” she enquired after a minute. Her eyes were mainly fixed on her task, although she frequently stole glances at him.
He frowned upon her question. “What time is it?” He vaguely recalled that he had returned from work at six this evening. He hadn’t wasted his time with hitting the bottle, but he had also fallen asleep.
“Around a quarter to nine would be my guess,” she retorted patiently.
“Oh. Well, no. I haven’t had dinner.”
“Your breath fucking reeks.” She coughed and pinched her small nose with her free hand.
“Sorry,” he muttered embarrassed and looked away from her.
“Mum will be cooking us dinner. Serves you right,” she joked then.
“No.” He sobbed. “Her cooking tastes like a bag o’ shite.”
“I know. But if you behave, I might be able to convince her to order something instead,” she countered.
“If I behave? Seriously Adella,” he grumbled. “I have neither the capacity nor patience to deal with your impossible questions right now. An interrogation is the last thing I need.”
“When was the last time you spoke to her, Leo?” she asked without mercy. His chest filled with pain upon the mention. After a sharp inhalation, he clenched his jaw and squeezed his eyes shut.
“You don’t understand, Adella. Mind your own business.”
“You are my business,” she argued patiently. “It’s a simple question. Don’t overthink it.”
He pushed her away to clasp his head in his hands. “Adella. I don’t want to think of her. It’s fucking painful.” His voice trembled with his amount of emotion. It felt like his chest was imploding. He could barely breathe. The thought of her was stifling.
“I can see that,” she replied audibly upset. “But Leo, it’s still a simple question. Take your time.”
He shook his head to himself and felt his face twist with his agony. Nearly three months, he had gone without the sound of her soothing voice. Nearly three months, he had gone without the feel of her soft skin against his fingertips. It was fucking devastating. But Adella didn’t understand. He had to maintain distance. It had been Keira’s wish. Had she changed her mind then she was fully aware that she needed only reach out to him. This was her choice. She had been the one to demand space. Not him. Had it been up to him, they never would have parted ways in the first place. He had wanted to be with her every step of the way to express his support.
Besides, the fact that she hadn’t initiated any contact whatsoever could only imply that she had intended to break up completely. This wasn’t a break. This was a break up. He didn’t have a right to miss her anymore. She wasn’t his to care for. That much was obvious. Such had become painfully apparent to him over the span of the last month. And that was when he had begun to seek solace in his love of whiskey.
And even if she did intend to reach out to him one day, then it was entirely up to her. He couldn’t initiate any contact, because Elisabeth had told him to keep a distance. When he had called her last month to hear how Keira was doing, she had been very clear about her daughter’s requirements. Leonardo shouldn’t contact her. Victoria Stone, who was Keira’s therapist, had told her that.
Since then, he had wondered whether to contact Elisabeth or William again. He worried it wasn’t appropriate. In the end, Elisabeth had never clarified whether her daughter still loved him. Whether she knew the truth to the question he remained uncertain about. But if she did, she had chosen not to tell him. Therefore, he had gathered that she didn’t. Why else would he have to maintain distance for so long? He had expected a month, maybe two, but surely not three. And it didn’t look to be changing anytime soon. Keira had moved on. She didn’t want him in her life. That was just it.
“Three months,” he croaked out and trembled with his internal turmoil. It was terribly unfair. He hadn’t done anything wrong. All he was guilty of was loving every fibre of her being.
“And you’re not contacting her because…?” Adella asked quietly.
“Because I can’t, Adella! She’s moved on. We’re done. Finished. The end!” he growled and glared over at her.
Adella swallowed and grimaced in visible sympathy. “Do you know where things went wrong between you? Do you have closure, Leo? You seem to require it is all.”
“No! I haven’t got any fucking closure!” he shouted back at her and felt tears sting his eyes. “I was about to bloody propose to her, you little shit! Of course I don’t know what went wrong!” He hissed upon the memory and steered his eyes away from her. He regretted being so harsh. She meant no harm, and he knew that. But she wasn’t helping. She was only increasing his pain. Quietly, he continued, “I’m sorry I spoke to you like that. But please get out, Adella. That’s enough now.”
“Adella, leave him alone,” Kathryn instructed from outside then. The two siblings inhaled startled upon her presence. When they glanced toward the doorway, they couldn’t see her. Where was she? A few seconds past, she exited his walk-in-closet with the plastic bag in her hands.
“Not so clever after all,” he murmured upon the sight.
“It would have been, had I not intended to do your laundry for you.” Kathryn sighed and dropped the bag onto the floor. “I’ll have to order in some food. From the look of things, I’ll be too busy cleaning to mind cooking. Honestly, had I known the place would be in such terrible condition, I would have hired a crew.”
“Thank God.” Adella groaned and turned to send Leonardo a smile.
Kathryn snorted. “You spoiled little brats. You’d do well having dry bread and water for nutrition for a few months’ time.”
Leonardo groaned and rolled his eyes at her. She would always say that whenever they offended her cooking.
“Matthew has spoiled all three of you with his cooking,” she continued disapprovingly.
“Where is Dad?” Leonardo asked curiously.
“He’s in surgery. You should be glad he’s not here. He would not have been as patient as I have been,” Kathryn retorted after a scoff.
A swallow, and then Leonardo brought himself to enquire, “Have you told him?”
“No,” she mumbled quietly. “I didn’t want to worry him before the surgery. But you can be certain that I’ll tell him when he comes home later.”
He groaned. “Bollocks.”
“Adella, why don’t you find us somewhere to order from? You’re much better at that stuff than I am,” Kathryn suggested with her maternal tone of voice while regarding her darling daughter.
“Sure, Mum.” She nodded and stretched up between Leonardo’s legs. After placing the shaving machine in his lap, she turned on her heel and sauntered out of the bathroom. When she had climbed the stairs, Kathryn entered the bathroom.
“Not you, too.” Leonardo moaned and clasped his head again. “I’m bloody drunk, Mum. I’m not in a state where I can have this conversation right now.”
“I’m well aware. I was only going to finish what she started,” she retorted with a scoff and knelt between his legs.
She finished in a matter of minutes and dragged her hand over his trimmed stubble. “There he is. My handsome boy.” She grinned and leaned in to pay his forehead a loving peck.
Shocking her, Leonardo brought both of his strong arms around her and buried his face in the crook of her neck. There, he grimaced in anguish and trembled against her. Her familiar and soft scent drifted into his nose like a reminder of unconditional love. She felt like safety.
He had never been one to seek out maternal affection of this kind during his youth. In general, he had never been one for physical displays of affection. Hugging, to him, had always been an awkward experience. Truly, this maternal embrace was nearly a first for him.
Eron had been opposite. He had sought their mother’s attention and embrace without any regard for stereotypes of masculinity. It wasn’t that Leo cared for the stereotypes either, but he had never experienced the urge for his mother’s embrace before. Not like this. But this time was different. Embracing his mother, like this, was exactly what he needed right now.
“Oh, darling,” Kathryn soothed and squeezed him against her. “You’ll be all right.”
“Yeah,” he breathed feebly and tightened his grip of her. “Thanks for coming, Mum. I did require an intervention.”
“You did. So don’t you dare scold Christopher for what he did. He was only looking after you, that lovely lad. I truly do adore him. It’s a pity I’ve never met him.”
“I am unlikely to mention anything at all. Knowing him, we’ll both pretend as if it never happened.”
“That’s my Leo.” She chuckled and pecked his wet hair repeatedly.
“Will Indian be all right?” Adella asked from the bedroom.
That’s all for now, my lovely readers! I hope you’re all doing better than Leo is.