Sample Wednesday

Today’s Sample is from ‘Midnight Sons’ – a novel which touches on themes of mental health, infidelity, relationship demise, brokenness, patchwork families and starting over.  Set in London, this book tells the story of Darius and Bethany, and is split into two halves, with the flavor somewhat of a departure from my usual Afro-Caribbean HEA romances.  However, this story kind of compelled itself and I thought, why not

Today’s Sample is a snippet of a scene where Darius is trying to get to know his new love interest Elia, a woman of considerable mystery.  Elia has mentioned her father as having been her primary caregiver growing up, her rock, but not much more than that.  Darius is still trying to piece Elia together, so letting him tag along to visit her dad represents Elia’s way of letting him know she’s prepared to let him all the way in. 

I hope you’ll enjoy this one!!

Midnight Sons: A Novel

Elia stopped in front of a housing block, heaving a sigh.  “OK, here it goes,” she muttered.

Gentle Meadow, Care Home was illuminated by a sign on the tiny strip of lawn on the walk-up to reception. 

Elia pressed the bell, and the door buzzed open.

Scraping our shoes on the welcome mat, a nurse appeared and her face lit up. 

“I knew it had to be you,” the nurse said, wagging a finger at Elia, her gaze moving on to take in my presence.  The nurse wore a white fitted straight dress with a silver belt, and white sneakers.  Her hair was tied under a brown turban and she was well built.  “He’s been asking.  I told him, you’d be here shortly.  But you know how he gets.”  She said, lowering her mask to show a smile, her straight teeth a gleaming contrast to pretty pink pouty lips.

Hey Lu!  Thanks for keeping him chilled,” Elia said, working the hand sanitizer, before dropping a few drops in mine.  “Umm, there’s someone I want you to meet.  Darius this is Lu, my father’s nurse crush.”  Elia said, fixing her mask in place and passing one to me.

“Don’t listen to Sonny.  She likes being naughty,” Lu bumped my elbow.  “Nice to meet you, Darius.”

“And you,” I said, with a smile.  It felt weird to hear Elia being called Sonny.  It was like I’d entered her world, and I was already registering how little I knew of it. 

“Just follow the music,” Lu chuckled, going behind the desk at reception and shuffling through some papers in search of something. 

“Will do.  Catch you later, yeah,” Elia said, heading towards the staircase, her voice muffled.

“If not, then next time.  I’m signing-off soon,” Lu replied.

“You bet,” Elia winked and waved, before heading up the stairs.

I followed, and, sure enough, as we hit the first landing, I heard music.  It was the lull of a saxophone coming from down the hall.  Elia paused, and inhaled.  Her eyes closed briefly, and she looked cast in a momentary trance.

I didn’t do or say anything.  I just watched.  Let her take a moment, before pushing on again to room twenty-three. 

The door was cracked open.  Elia knocked and entered.

I followed on behind, finding myself in a bedroom with a window on the other side.  It was a clean room but pretty basic.  A sink, small kitchenette, with a small fridge and a kettle perched on top.  The rest of the room was filled by a bed, a closet and two easy chairs, one of which was occupied by an old black man, grey around the temples and bald on top.  His bowed head was bopping slightly to the rhythmic slide of the drum brush.  If he was aware he had company, he sure hadn’t shown it.

He was somewhere else, meditative, his jean-clad legs stretched out, long and thin, in front of him.  His feet were covered in thick red woollen socks and slippers.  The socks were the same colour as his sweater, which was hung loose over a slight paunch.  He looked wise-kinda-cool, not what I’d expected.  Even if I wasn’t sure what I’d expected.  Perhaps an older, maybe more carefree, dude?  His daughter was quite the free bird.  I kind of figured she would’ve been running away from something more Bohemian.  I don’t know why.

Elia went over to the sink and washed her hands.  I followed suit.  Then, she approached her father and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him close.

Dude mumbled something.  I didn’t quite catch what he said, although, as Elia looked over, I did catch the water pooling her eyes. 

“Daddy?  I’d like you to meet someone.  Someone who’s super special,” she said, as her gaze held.  “Daddy this is Darius.  Darius this is my daddy.”  The way she said daddy broke my heart.  It was laced with so much love.

I forced my legs to move, and approached, reaching out my hand to shake his. 

But her father hadn’t moved.  He was still gently bopping his head.

I reached down and gave his hand a gentle squeeze anyway.  “It’s an honour to meet you, Mr Reece … Sir.”

“George,” Elia breathed. 

“I hope you don’t mind if we go straight to first names, George?  Y’see, like Elia said, I’m Darius, a friend of your daughter’s who plans to be sticking around a good long time.”

Thank you, she mimed, lowering her mask for a second then raising it again. 

What for?  I reciprocated; my chest ached.  Elia was always so damn grateful.

This old man was all the family she had left, and she loved him.  Totally.  It was the kind of thick love you could see and almost feel like you could touch. 

“Sonny?  Where’s my Sonny?”

The old man’s voice raised and startled me. 

Not Elia though.  That gorgeous smile was hiding but I could feel it there as she knelt before him radiating love.  “Daddy, I’m right here.  You see?  I came like I promised.”

The old man smiled at her words, which had me feeling relieved.

“Aren’t you a pretty thing?  Where you come from?  I’ve been here waiting on my Sonny, isn’t it?”

I saw something in Elia break, the slight tremble in her shoulders, a tear rolled from her eye.  “I’m right here daddy.  Like I promised.”

She got up, swiping her cheek and moving to the sink.

“I think a cuppa is in order,” she said, with her back to me, taking out some of the contents of her bag, food items mostly and a wrapped gift, propping a Christmas card next to it on the table by his bed. 

I was standing there like an idiot, my heart thumping in my chest, absorbing the realness.  I couldn’t take it much longer, standing there feeling impotent.  So, I pulled up the chair opposite her dad and sat down at the required distance to face him.

I took in his peaceful face, the watery eyes.  Y’know, old people’s eyes. with the creases of banked time stamped at each corner.  Back in the day, with those sharp angular features and slender but strong build he would’ve been quite the cat in a sharp suit.    He was still handsome.  Probably had the women swooning on the regular at them jazz clubs. 

“You a jazz man?” I asked, planting both my elbows on either knee and leaning forward to hold eye contact.

A tired, slightly forlorn expression washed over his face.  He looked confused, as if he wasn’t sure of anything.  Then, he sighed a kind of exasperated sigh, slapping his hand on the arm of the chair.  Elia jumped and turned. 

I was cool, not thrown by it. 

I could see how frustrated he was. 

Robbed of so many memories, people, places, times.  All of it gone?  Or, maybe some snippets coming back.  I couldn’t be sure. 

Elia had dropped me smack in the middle of this one with no forewarning.  I didn’t know how bad his dementia was, or whether that was indeed what he had.  I wasn’t versed on the ins and outs of dementia versus Alzheimer’s.  I just didn’t know enough.  ‘Cause it hadn’t entered my universe … yet.  Truthfully, I was hoping it never would.  Mama was still clear as day, going strong.

“It’s OK, man.  It’s OK,” I reached for his hand and held it.  I watched as he blinked through the moisture in his eyes, his grip tightening in mine.  He was scared.  I could feel the fear.  “Look, man, you remember this one?”

He looked at me.  The song playing was ‘What a Difference A Day Makes‘ by Dinah Washington.  My Ma loved that song.  I knew it backwards.  At first his expression was blank, but as I started to sing something sparked in his eye and the unbelievable happened.  He broke into song.

Shivers ran through me.  I could feel Elia looking on, her gaze like fire.

I was singing.  Doing the best I could.  But more importantly, her dad was singing too.  He was remembering every damn line.  His baritone deep and scratchy, but the joy in his eyes?  The sparkles were pure magic. 

We sang the entire song, until it tapered to an end and we were left chuckling in delight. 

Midnight Sons: A Novel©L.S. Bergman 2020

Image Accred: L.S. Bergman 2020

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