'Dream Mikey' shows his true colours
Such a small word to hold so much depth of turmoil and emotion and Frank’s simple statement expressed it all and more.
Gerard slumped back in the chair and stared unblinking into the fire, watching the flames licking the walls of the hearth, the tiny sparks dancing in the grate and the ever changing flicker of reds, oranges and yellows. The room was silent apart from the crackle of the fire and finally Gerard’s resigned sigh.
“Okay, so you wanted to know why I don’t do anything about him, now you know.”
By now Gerard’s still unblinking, staring eyes were drying from the constant exposure to the heat of the flames and they began to sting. Finally tearing his eyes away, he looked down to his left arm hopeful that Frank wouldn’t notice as his eyes filled with water, partly from excessive dryness but partly from the agony of the situation. Frank knelt at the side of the chair and placed his hand hesitantly over Gerard’s.
“But you can deny it can’t you?” Frank tried to reassure him. “Let’s face it, no one trusts him, who’s going to believe anything he says?”
Gerard sighed heavily. “He doesn’t have to say anything.”
“What do you mean?” Frank asked sitting back on his heels.
Gerard turned his gaze down to his free hand and in an attempt not to have to look up, spent the next minute examining the lines on his fingers closely.
“Gerard?” Frank prompted. “Is it true?” he asked with an edge of disbelief to his tone.
Gerard laughed mirthlessly.
“No,” he shook his head, “no, it’s not true. Come on, Frank, you know me. But if even you have to ask if it’s true, why would anyone else disbelieve him?”
“For the reasons I said before!” Frank replied, now with more certainty than ever.
Gerard shook his head sadly. “He’s paid a man to say I was with him.”
“He’s done what!”
“And of course, the irony is, it was with my money!”
“Gerard,” Frank was at a loss, “I don’t know what to say.”
“I’m trapped,” he shrugged helplessly. “I’m being blackmailed by my own brother. Everything he has is total fabrication, but what can I do?”
Frank exhaled angrily and crinkled his nose with distaste.
“Do you have a dungeon?”
Gerard shook his head and gave a hollow laugh at the idea.
“I’m serious!” Frank insisted angrily, but with absolute conviction.
Gerard cut short the laugh and stared with an expression that was almost blank, but still held an element of disbelief.
“Frank, I can’t lock up my own brother!”
“Yes you can! You’d be surprised what you could do to that bastard and how many people would cheer when you do it!”
Frank was on his feet now, pacing like a caged lion. Furious, fit to explode.
“Frank,” Gerard began quietly, “I promised I’d take care of him. I give him an allowance, I pay for his clothes and board, and I keep the peace in whatever way I can.”
“You mean you let him walk all over you!”
“He’s the only family I’ve got now.”
Frank pulled his lips into a thin line as he considered Gerard’s words.
“Well, you deserve better!”
Gerard smiled weakly. “Thanks.”
As much as he disliked the situation, Ray realised the practicalities of continuing to use the wheelchair. It came down to sheer embarrassment. Not that wheelchair use itself was embarrassing, but that all that was wrong was a mild sprain – he felt quite foolish and worried that it would be considered as a gross overreaction. He shuddered to think what the Press would make of it or people everywhere who had no choice but to use a wheelchair – would they think he was mocking them with so trivial an injury? The fact of the matter was that this was the easiest option for moving around quickly and for a speedy recovery as he could have his ankle permanently raised. It was practical and it made sense, but it didn’t stop him feeling uncomfortable about it. Of course the irony was that it was probably his worrying that was the overreaction.
The three musicians headed in silence down to the hospital café; each of them considering their own interpretation of Doctor Wendel’s words. Each of them frantically forming ideas before casting them aside as they realised all the flaws inherent within them. There didn’t appear to be a single simple plan of action available to them. There was only one possible route open to them to resolve the dilemma – coffee. Gerard settled the tray of coffees down on the table and slid into the seat beside Mikey as everyone helped themselves to a steaming mug. For a few minutes more, the three friends sat in virtual silence, with only the occasional sound of a cup tapping back down onto the plastic table, or a sipping noise.
“Is he saying that we shouldn’t even speak to him?” Mikey finally broke the silence.
“No,” Gerard shook his head, “I don’t think so, just that we have to be careful what we say.”
Ray frowned as he thought about it. The more he did the more concerned he grew.
“I think this could be a real problem,” he offered resting his forearms on the table and leaning forward. “If we don’t know what he’s dreaming about, how can we be careful enough?”
The idea presented hit a nerve with the two brothers and both stared back in terrified bewilderment.
“Go on,” Gerard replied, desperately hoping he’d misunderstood.
“Well, it’s not just what we say, it could be what we do too. Say I go in his room and hold his hand, then, when I go to leave I let go. Well, what if he’s dreaming that he’s about to fall, but I’m holding onto his hand. When I let go, will he fall?”
Gerard closed his eyes as he took in Ray’s words. It was much worse than he had imagined. He had understood what the doctor had meant about things being incorporated into his dream, but had never actually considered that something so naively simple and innocuous like that could actually be highly dangerous and even potentially fatal.
Mikey smiled slyly as he stepped away from the door having heard every word of Gerard and Frank’s conversation. It served his purpose that his brother was a little afraid of him. Oh, he was willing to back down just enough not to antagonise Gerard too much. Even he knew that there was a limit to his brother’s patience, but he was whittling away at Gerard’s confidence, and using his money to his own ends. Frank had been right, he was stealing from the Estate; how else was he supposed to live on the pitiful allowance Gerard gave him? By the day’s standards, Gerard had insisted, it was more than generous, but it was meagre compared with what he needed to live in the style he wanted. He scowled as he thought about his brother lording it over him, hoarding his wealth and refusing him, as he saw it, his rightful inheritance.
“It won’t be long now, Gerard,” he muttered angrily. “Enjoy it while you can!”
Turning to walk away, Mikey’s head pulled up sharply as he saw Angela, the maid, standing only a few feet behind him holding a bottle of wine brought fresh from the cellar.
“What are you looking at?” he snapped. “How long have you been there?”
“Just arrived, Sir,” came the quiet, meek reply.
“Is that so?” he asked taking an intimidating step towards her. His lips curled up into a smile, but his eyes remained cold. “What did you hear?”
Angela shook her head quickly, nervously. “Nothing, Sir.”
Mikey cupped his hand around her neck and pushed her back against the wall and pressing his lips forcefully and painfully against hers. She clenched her jaw tightly as he tried to force his tongue into her mouth and was refused access. Squirming and wriggling against the wall, Angela cried out as best she could without opening her mouth and eventually, denied entry, Mikey was forced to give up and pull back. Furious, he swiped the back of his hand across her cheek. Crying out in pain, she dropped the bottle. The glass shattered, spilling wine all over the floor, her dress and Mikey’s boots.
“You stupid bitch!” he yelled. Now livid with rage, Mikey saw red and pushing her back against the wall with his left hand raised his other to strike her once more.
“Don’t you dare lay a finger on her!” Gerard shouted from the now open doorway.
“Oh! And you’ll let the clumsy bitch off with this will you? Look what she’s done! These boots are brand new, hand made with Italian leather!”
“And I paid for them, so I’ll decide if it’s a problem!” Gerard snapped.
Mikey glowered in return, pointing an accusatory finger at his brother.
“Your days of embarrassing me in front of the servants are numbered, Gerard. Remember that!”
Turning sharply away, Mikey stormed down the corridor, his coat flapping behind him.
Gerard sighed as he tried to calm himself.
“Are you all right, Angela?” he asked kindly.
“Yes, Sir,” she nodded, “I’ll clean this up now, Sir.”
Gerard shook his head.
“No, no, it’s okay. I’ll clean up here,” Gerard consulted his pocket watch. “You take the rest of the night off, go home, relax.”
“Mister Way, Sir,” Angela began hesitantly, “I’d be happy to do it.”
“Okay, but then go home. Yes?”
“Thank you, Sir.”
Gerard nodded again as he and Frank returned to their seats the sitting room.
“So,” Gerard swirled the wine in his glass before downing what remained, “this is my life! Want to swap?”
“My suggestion to lock him up still stands,” Frank replied. There was humour in his tone, but they both knew he was very serious.
Gerard took a deep breath.
“I’ll give it some thought,” he replied with the same inflection in his voice.