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Rated: 18+ · Fiction · Friendship · #2201104
Chapter one of a larger work in progress
Broken Dreams
And
Mended Hearts

As told by Jordan with excerpts from Mark



         Part I
Chapter 1
Troubled Hearts




         Dinner was over and Alta and Mark had gone into the Great Room to talk. I did my best not to listen to what was said but they were in the same room, after all, and they weren’t even trying to keep their voices down. Alta knew that I’d all but moved in with Mark and she was in total agreement.
         “All Right Mark, you sounded worried earlier and the tone of urgency is there. What’s up?”
         “You guessed it, I’m worried. It’s been two weeks since I told Mitch to go fuck a post. Did I do the right thing?”
         “If you’re feeling guilty, don’t,” she said. “You have no reason to feel guilty. To be honest, I’m glad you finally did it. I tried to tell you before you let Mitch move in with you that his intentions weren’t all together honorable. I haven’t seen much of Mitch since my stroke. He was never around long enough to talk to anyone. I think he’s afraid I’ll confront him about not coming to the hospital or to be more specific, not coming to see his father. He really hurt his father when he made that decision. Perry fought valiantly and hung on long after he could be considered—alive, hoping Mitch would come and see him, but he finally gasped and let go. If only you could have seen the disappointment and hurt in Perry’s eyes when he realized that his son didn’t care enough. I almost cried. I really don’t have much to say to him anymore.”
         “Mom, how can you say things like that? He’s still you’re son.”
         “No, he may be the man to whom I gave birth, but he stopped being my son when he didn’t even care enough to take a time-out from his latest conquest to come to his father’s side the day he died. The Floor nurse told me that he did come upstairs and inquire about Perry’s condition, but when she asked if he would go to see his father, he shook his head and walked away. And then he didn’t even come to the funeral. You have no reason to feel guilty, you should have kicked him out long ago. You shouldn’t have extended the olive branch in the first place. You did nothing but try to save a remnant of what you perceived he and you had shared. You gave your heart and your home for Mitch and he just took and took.”
         “Yeah, but did he really have someplace to go, didn’t he? Or was I mistaken.”
         “Mark, Mitch Grayson bought that condo and kept a Fuck Buddy—at least one and maybe more, long before he came to you. You’d be inhumane not to worry about him, Mark. But he doesn’t deserve the consideration. By the way, he’s probably in Dallas by now. And I guarantee none of his lovers will be there.
         “Alta, how can you say that?”
         “I’ve already told you, that individual is just a man called Mitch,” she said as she pulled on her gloves and adjusted them to fit. Take care of yourself, do you understand me? Let Jordan help you. Take care Jordan, she said as Mark opened the door and ushered her into the hall.
         For twenty minutes after Alta left, Mitch talked as I emptied the dishwasher and as I turned to a pot into the cupboard. When I turned back to him, he was headed down the hall toward the Studio. And that had hurt. I supposed I could just go home, lick my wounds and feel sorry for myself because Mark didn’t care about my opinion, but I knew better. Mark didn’t need a clingy, desperate, drama queen. He needed a true friend not a fair-weather friend who came around when it suited him, but a best friend who’d be a friend in need, not a man who was there when the occasion served him. If nothing else, I was his friend. I knew something when I arrived at around 10:00 a.m. this morning. He must’ve had a nightmare last night, because he was moody and restless, and the mood swings were intense. I turned out the kitchen lights and followed Mark to the Studio Suite.

Mark

         I entered the Studio Suite and walked to the massive wall of windows in the studio proper, which, on a clear day, provided plenty of light for my painting, and on a clear night one could see forever. However, as I gazed down at the winding road leading up to the underground garage of Building Two in Darrington Estates Condominium and Penthouse Complex—a two-building community on Seaview Point in the City of DrakesVille, Washington—in the penthouse where I’d lived for nearly nine years; two of which had been calm, peaceful and happy, and then Mitch Grayson had manipulated his way into my life again. To be fair, there had been a time several years ago now when each of us had virtually lived in the other’s back pocket. But whether cliché or not, Mitch had effectively changed overnight after realizing that the death of his brother Joseph in the first desert conflict had made him his father’s sole male heir. And that wasn’t all. He'd learned from Perry’s lawyer, that upon his twenty-first birthday he’d also gain control of his brother’s trust fund. Mark had been in eighth grade in DrakeVille Middle School when his mother had died; he’d met Mitch when my father had left me with the Grayson’s three months later, but we hadn’t grown close until High school. However, by the time Mitch had graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, our friendship bond had been severed and for all intense and purposes, the change was complete. As they say, if you really want to know an individual, wait until there’s money involved.
         After the war, although both of us had returned to DrakesVille with PTSD, my flashbacks had been and still were more intense and many times more violent. Although Mitch’s episodes had been intense, they were mostly nightmares, unlike mine, many of which had come during my waking hours had been not only intense but violent. Mitch’s PTSD had avoided the violence, common in so many victims of the traumatic events inherent in all PTSD after a war. But tonight as I gazed out the window at a romantic night sky, the stars which had been scattered from the maw of the large blue moon which hung in the distant western sky, across a beautiful black velvet tapestry; a scene that had spawned may a vision by which I had painted countless landscapes reflecting a ships sailing in various weather conditions from calm and peaceful to tossed about by vicious windstorms and torrential rains, but for two weeks, three swatches of color had silently glared back at me and I’d not been able to render a vision to the canvas on the easel which had me worried. Although I couldn’t begin to understand why I should give a fuck what happened to Mitch. We’d had words before he left that night two weeks ago, after which Mitch had packed the last of his belongings into his large suitcase and left the penthouse. He’d turned at the door and said something which I’d spaced off at the time and tonight those words just seemed alluded me. After my telephone conversation with Marcy, Mitch’s sister, several months ago, my inner voice had almost convinced me that Mitch had opted for the Cure you or Kill you therapy offered by Doctor Rick Stangle at the Dallas Cancer Hospital. A suspicion which had become solidified within the past two weeks.

Jordan

         As I stepped into the suite, I waited until I was sure Mark hadn’t heard me enter, walked into the space that had been Mitch’s office space and sat in the plush black leather swivel-based chair behind the Ultra-Modern Black Lacquer desk—with so many curves and ridges, it looked like a mountain range and it was pretentious, but then what would you expect with Ultra-Modern décor. It looked like something that might have been found in the Jetson’s (60’s animated television series) home office. Keeping to the shadows, I watched Mark as he stood before the palatial window wall in the Studio—six massive six-foot by four-foot thermal glass panes that, on a clear day, provided ample light for his painting. And on a clear night, one could see forever. A poet or a romance writer might render the scene thusly: Tiny stars scattered across a blue velvet tapestry as though pitched from the hand of the man in the moon hanging in the in far distant western sky; a gentle breeze chased the low tide inland and it slapped silently against the four-foot sea wall as the aroma of sea salt permeated the warm night air. But I couldn’t imagine Mark was feeling very romantic tonight. His emotions had been all over the place all day. He must have had a nightmare last night because he’d been out of sorts all day. I’d tried everything from meditation to movies to calm him, but Mark just couldn’t concentrate, so around five-thirty, I gave up and began preparing dinner, Mark called Alta Grayson. I didn’t listen to everything he said, I only heard the words help! This is urgent?” Now, as he stood in front of the window, I could almost hear his thoughts. “Mitch, why couldn’t you mind your own business. Why did you have to come back? I was happy without you. I went clubbing with my neighbor and we became close friends who enjoyed each other’s company. At least that’s more than you offered me after you moved in and the peaceful atmosphere was replaced by anger and way too much drama. Why, Mitch. How dare you go to your mother because you suspected Me and Jordan of having an affair. What difference did it make to you? You have your secret fucks. At least, until you began living away and visiting home, Jordan and I were just friends. You don’t love me now and at this point, I have begun to wonder if there was ever any love between us at all.
         “Fuck,” Mark said into what he must’ve thought was empty space. He turned from the window and walked to the conversation area. He’d probably just realized that I was been answering a question when the walkaway ignoring the answer. What was worse, my back was turned. How rude can one man be? Knowing Mark, he’d wanted to believe that I’d just gone home, but he had to know me better than that. I was, above all, a loyal friend and friends didn’t just walk away. Hell, by now, it wouldn’t surprise Mark if I called his name from where I sat in the shadows in the desk chair watching everything. If he thought he’d wanted to be alone, he was beginning to realize how much he needed me. But he’d told me, a long time ago that if he needed me, he’d call, and yet there was really nothing I could do if he did flashback. he’d told not to try and rescue him. He’d reasoned, errantly of course, and selfishly, that after what he’d gone through with Mitch during the past five years, he deserved at least one night of self-pity. “Asshole,” he said, and he glared at the portrait of Mitch hanging above the side table for so long it was a wonder it hadn’t begun to burn.
Moments later, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: first, Mark gave a blood-curdling scream—war cry would be a more accurate term—walked back to studio for nearly a half an hour, I watched as Mark cut, tore and broke anything and everything in his path in the studio space and yet miraculously, he hadn’t damaged the wood floor beneath the canvas drop cloth which told me told me that some part of himself still lingered. But I’ve no doubt that the floor would have been his next target. He then surveyed the area and . . . without warning, he grasped his wood pallet and flung it across the room against the River Rock fireplace. By the force of gravity, tiny lids popped from small plastic paint containers and paint-splattered everywhere, leaving a trail from the drop cloth to the fireplace wall. The impact of the wood pallet against the rocks on the fireplace surround caused the remainder of the lids to pop from their small unopened plastic containers as paint began to dibble slowly over the gray rocks of the fireplace. Never in my life, had I been so fucking scared. Now I understood why Mark had warned me against trying and rescue him. I could’ve been hurt, worse, dead. I shuddered. Mark turned like a robot and started toward the office space; his dagger raised above his head as he let loose with another spine-tingling war cry. Knowing or at least believing instinctively that if I lingered, I’d become a casualty in whatever war he was fighting, I got the hell out of there.
         Once inside the Sitting Room off the Master Bedroom, my heart thumping so loud I was sure someone somewhere could hear it. I dropped down onto Love Seat, pushed a button on the arm incliner, leaned back, and closed my eyes and or several minutes, I took deep calming breaths to slow my heartbeat and bring my bring blood pressure down once again. My head was throbbing. As soon as my hands stopped trembling, I dug the remote out the pocket on the side of the arm, turned on the television and cued up Netflix. I chose a feel-good movie that I’d seen countless times before I introduced Mark to the flick a couple of years ago, during one of Mitch’s hiatuses. There was no violence of which to speak and the only sex was by innuendo. If you couldn’t figure out what would take place by the arrangement of words, you were above all else, completely sheltered. Most people wouldn’t even watch the movie, let alone buy it. However, watching a movie and concentrating on the content long enough to enjoy that movie requires one’s complete attention. But half of my attention—heart, and soul- was still present with Mark in the Studio Suite. As the End-credits began to scroll, the doorbell chimed, and just as it chimed the second time, I hurried out to the Great Room. “Mark.” Alta’s muffled words came through the door and I hurried into the foyer and opened the door. As Alta entered the apartment, she looked at me in surprise. “Jordan, why are you here?”
         “Yeah, right, why am I here? Like I’d be watching TV in my penthouse when Mark needed me. Do you really need to ask that question?”
Alta grinned. “No, I suppose not. Where is Mark?”
         “He’s in the studio,” I said as implored her to hear me out.
         “Okay, Jordan, what’s happened?”
         “Mark had a flashback and it was bad. Now I understand why he admonished me against trying to rescue him since his flashbacks could get violent and I might get hurt or worse. I saw the whole thing, Alta! I was so scared.” I suddenly realized I was rambling, slowed down and continued my story. “I went to the studio after I finished cleaning up the kitchen and when I got in there he was just standing in front of those massive windows and he didn’t even flinch when I rolled that awesome leather desk chair back into the shadows. The studio looks like a war zone, which I guess for all intents and purposes, it was.”
         Alta took her cell out of her purse, tapped a key and waited until she heard a buzz from the Studio Suite and then she hurried down the hall and I followed. She reached out to grab the door lever, but the door opened, seemingly of its own accord. Weird, huh?
         She entered the suite and gasped. “What a mess,” she said. “This room looks—
         “Like a fucking battleground would be the accurate term, since that’s just what took place in this room,” I said as we navigated through the remains of the studio to find Mark lying on his stomach in the midst of the debris, a dagger which lay about a foot out of reach. “Mark MacCann, can you hear me? Major Mark MacCann, do you hear me? At five-foot-ten with salt and pepper hair—more salt than pepper at her age, Alta Grayson was a 67-year-old force of nature. I’d thought Mark was unconscious and maybe he was, but her commanding tone combined with Mark’s full name and rank combined to rouse him enough to react. She repeated her words, adding: “You are no longer in Iraq. You are lying in on the floor of the studio in your penthouse in DrakesVille, Washington. Do you hear me?” Another moan. She bent over him. “Mark, she said in a softer tone. “Do you know who this is?” He rolled onto his back, opened his eyes, and stared at the ceiling in confusion. It was as though he’d never seen this suite before.
         “Mark,” she called.
         “Alta?” He said as he rolled onto his stomach and struggled to stand upright on his knees.
What are you doing here?” He surveyed the studio and grimaced. “What a mess! This place looks like a—
         “Fucking war zone,” I supplied.”
He turned to look at me. “Jordan, what are you doing here? I thought you went home.”
         “Yeah, right like I could go to my place and watch a fucking movie when my best friend needed me. What kind of friend is that?”
         “I’m sorry, no offense. I was just surprised to see you. I mean I was rather rude.”
         “No offense taken,” I replied. “But you’ve been going through hell all day and I expected something like this to happen sooner or later.”
Mark surveyed the aftermath and grimaced. “I have to clean up this mess.”
         “Messes always have staying power, it’ll keep,” Alta replied. “Right now, we’ve got to talk.” She proffered her outstretched arm toward Mark.
         “Alta, I can stand on my own,” Mark said.
         “You can try,” Alta replied. “Meanwhile, I’m going to brew some tea and arrange some of those sugar wafers you like some much on a plate.” She left the suite.
Mark struggled to stand on his feet and succeeded, but his knees instantly buckled, and he went down. “Jordan,” he called to me before he hit the floor, I offered my arm, he grasped my wrist, I pulled him to his feet. He caught me around the waist; it was slow going but we went through the door into the penthouse kitchen. By the time we sat down, the table had already been set with a plate of cookies and four cups, Alta brought a carafe of brewed tea to the table and set in the middle and then sat in the chair on the kitchen side of the table. We ate cookies, drank hot tea and enjoyed at the time of fellowship, but Mark’s and my heads turned as one and mom peered through the blackness in the dimly lit Great Room.          Presently, large claws clicked against the hardwood floor in the hall as Bowser—Mitch’s beautiful black and tan German Shepherd ran through the penthouse and stopping in front of Mark, he whined. Man and dog exchanged glances and Mark sighed. “Yeah, I know boy, I miss the Mitch I once know too, but by the time you and Mitch met there was little or nothing remaining of what Mitch and I had once known. To be honest, I was probably the last thing on his mind. But I was there that day after we returned home from the war and I heard him charge you to take care of me if something happened to him. So, in his own way, Mitch still did care. But Semper Fi, as they say, always faithful. You were Mitch’s most loyal friend, but over the past few months, Mitch has neglected you too. But you kept your charge and if you hadn’t dragged my dagger out of reach, there’s no telling what I might have done. Now, I have Jordan, and I release you from your charge, Bowser, old boy. I know it hurts you to move. You can rest in peace. I love you, boy.” It had been a heartrending encounter. I swallowed hard to dispel a lump of emotion that had collected as I listened to Mark and Alta had cleared the table and hurried to the kitchen to clean up our few dishes. Mark looked at me.
         “So, Jordan, how much did you see?”
         “I saw it all, Mark, from the time I entered the suite and saw you standing in front of the windows in the studio. You didn’t even flinch when I rolled the office chair into the shadows and I wasn’t being particularly quiet, but when you came toward the office with your dagger raised above your head, I got the hell out of there.
         “I don’t remember much after I entered the suite. I mean, I was still so angry with Mitch, I just gave in and let go.          I’ve learned through bitter experience that the longer I struggle to hold onto reality, the more violent the flashback. But I can tell you this, I was coming back when I came toward the office, at that point, I’d sensed your presence in the office. You could have just called my name and I’d have come out of it.”
“Yeah, I know, Alta called your name and rank several times after we returned to the suite. Thanks for the information, I’ll store it away for future reference.”
Alta interrupted the proceedings. “Look, as interesting as this conversation has been, can you table the discussion until you’re alone? I have something important to say.”
         “We can do that, Alta. What haven’t you told us?” Mark asked. “The tension wire is so taught; I think you could cut it with a dull plastic knife.”
         “I received a text message from Mitch’s uncle earlier this evening, Alta said, and Mitch is dying. That’s why I left so abruptly earlier. I phoned him after I returned to Grayson house. He was at the airport in Casper, preparing to board a flight for Dallas. It was late afternoon there, you know. He gave me the phone number for a Dr. Stangle,” she paused as though waiting to see if Mark recognized the name.
         “Dr. Rick Stangle is the Specialist who’s been treating Mitch since March,” Mark said.
         “Yes, that’s what he told me, too. Anyway, he confirmed what Dale had said. Mitch is dying, and something in his tone of voice said the event would take place within hours or perhaps days as opposed to weeks and months. Dr. Stangle said Mitch is resting as comfortably as any man who’s been in an induced coma since last night’s episode.”
         “Why are you telling me this, Alta? Is there some reason I should give a fuck?”
         “I can understand the way you feel Mark, but Dr. Stangle has made reservations for two of us on the plane leaving DrakeVille at 11 pm our time. I would like you to go in and pack enough clothes for a week. You will stay at Grayson House with me tonight. We can leave for the airport from there.”
         “And I repeat, why should I care if Mitch dies or not? I’m free for the first time in five years.”
         “I understand, Mitch. But I’m not asking to come with me for Mitch’s sake, I’m asking because I need you to be with me, okay?”
Mitch and I exchanged a meaningful glance and I shrugged a shoulder and nodded perceptively. He looked at Alta again.          “Okay, I can do that, but I have to take a shower, wash my head, shave and change into something more suitable for travel. I’m not leaving this house looking like this.” Mark stood and headed for the Sitting Room door.
         Alta nodded. “Very well, do what you must, Mark. I have time.
         He looked back over his shoulder at me before he went through the door into the Sitting Room. “Jordan, this goes without saying, of course, but Bowser is your responsibility for the next week, give or take a couple of days,” Mark said as he entered the suite, closing the door behind him and leaving a strange void in the room. Alta and I both knew I needed to talk, but neither of us knew who to open the dialogue. If I could talk to anyone about this, it was Alta, she had become more like my mother than the woman who had given me life. During the past five years, I shared everything with Alta, and she knew about Michael Maritz. Well, at least everything up to last night. I sighed. While I was attempting to put my thoughts into some sort of order, Alta cleared her throat. “Jordan, I know you need to talk, I sensed as much when I was here for dinner. And if our past two or three conversations have been any indication of the subject, I’d say, this conversation needs privacy. I followed her through the kitchen into the study



Chapter 2
Mark and Jordan


         “Hey Jordan, how goes it?”
         “Hey Mark, how was the trip?”
         “The trip went well, we arrived at Dulles three hours ago and twenty minutes later, give or take a few, The airport shuttle bus let us out in front of the hospice center where Mitch’s uncle met us and took our bags inside; fifteen minutes later we were on our way, via elector up to our suite on the fourth floor—and not bad as suites go. As they say, when the French and the Texans do something, they do it in a big way and if this suite had been any indication, Mitch’s hospital room couldn’t be half-bad, I thought and I wasn’t disappointed, believe me—but for the sheer presence of the medical paraphernalia, betraying the room’s intended usage, that room could have rivaled the Executive Suites Hotel in Seattle. It’s fucking huge,’ he paused, and enormous too! I know I’m being redundant here but bear with me, as I try to convey how fucking awesome that room really is; it’s two large rooms—the medical area with travertine tiled floors, a three-drawer chest of drawers and a freaking California Double bed. How’s that for class—and the large family area is divided into three distinct areas. And it’s carpeted, Jordan. Imagine that! All that, including Early American Traditional décor and even a forty-two-inch flat-screen TV.”
         “Sounds homey,” Jordan said.
         “No, this suite is homey, Mitch’s suite is just fucking awesome, Jordy!”
         “I’m glad to hear that, but what’re your immediate plans, Mark?”
         “Well, earlier, Mitch’s uncle asked me if I was sure I’d really dealt with the issue of Mitch and I didn’t have to ask what he meant. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on the subject since last night, I mean, I didn’t get much sleep last night but for thinking. I haven’t had such a violent flashback—in well, I don’t think I’ve ever had such an intensely violent episode. Alta didn’t say much, but you know that if Uncle Dale sensed it, Alta had to. Anyway, Mitch had an episode last night after Uncle Dale got to Dallas, somewhere around the time you and Alta brought me home again. He survived against the odds and Doctor Stangle thinks he hung on until family arrived, but I’ve another take on it. I’m holding so tight to the tailfeathers of Mitch’s bird that he can’t take flight. You know goodbye is like I love you, in that, without action, the phrase is just words. So, Tonight, I’ll have to tell, Mitch, goodbye and mean it, setting Mitch free.”
         “You seem to have thought this through and resigned yourself to that fact, but what bothers me is suppose that’s not all you have to do?”
         “You may be right, but for now, this will suffice. We can deal with anything else later—you and me, Jordy. As to your earlier question, I’m going to take a nap before dinner.”
         “Good. “Meditate, relax and sleep. “I’ll talk to you later.
         “I’m so fortunate to have you for my best friend. You encourage me in every decision I make. It’s not often that a man gets a second chance for a meaningful relationship. I am truly blessed,” I said.
         “Yes, you are blessed, Mark, but not because you are my friend, you are blessed because you are you. Now, go and rest.”

         “Rest well, Mark. Hang in there,” I whispered as I disconnected the call and dropped my phone into the side pocket that hung just beneath the arm of the incliner. “Hang in there, the time will come before you know it.” He and I both knew there was more to this than just saying goodbye to Mitch. Those words would release Mitch to pass on into the beyond, but before that spirit would rest in peace, as they say, Mark would have to make some hard decisions concerning both of the portraits—the one in the studio and the one that hung about the ornate mantle above the fireplace—of him and Mitch. Mark had said that although Mitch had not sat for a portrait in the Studio suite, he did sit for the portrait hanging in the Great Room, although Mark had superimposed himself into the portrait, so it looked as though he was sitting beside Mitch.
         I’d been working from home or at least at Mark’s penthouse since the stress had started getting to him on Tuesday night, but Tuesday evening before dinner, Mark had sent me home so I be there when Michael called, since he called at 6:00pm, when and if, he called. I took my laptop from the side table and booted up, since it had been decided in the weekly staff meeting that I could postpone my monthly buying trip to San Francisco until the end of the month since none of the design teams would begin their jobs until around October 15th. I was expecting emails from Deborah in Furniture Acquisitions with the orders for each job, Marta in the Finance concerning my advance for the trip, and Jayson in contracts with one original contract, and one contact addendum for renegotiation. Bowser, Mitch’s beautiful German Shepherd, had been sleeping on the bedroom floor beside Mark’s side of the bed most of the afternoon, but now he stood at the foot of the incliner and whined. “You need to go out, boy?” I asked. He stood upright and placed his paws on the edge of the footrest and one look at the pain in his eyes told me how much that action had hurt. “Down boy, you don’t have to do that. I know it hurts. Wait until I sent this email and we’ll go out. Go lay down and I’ll call you.” He whined again as he went into the bedroom and lay down again.
         “Bowser,” I called after I’d fired off the email to Deborah. “Let’s go boy,” I replied as the incliner straightened, the footrest dropped slowly, and I stood up. “Follow me.” I opened the Sitting Room door and he followed me out into the Great Room and to the front door.

         I was awoken by an insistent buzzing and the room was completely dark but for the dim light from a small lamp on the table-shelf at each side of the headboard, so I must have dropped off within minutes after the movie had begun. I hadn’t slept much myself last night. I worried that Mark would have another flashback or that something would happen in Dallas. I’m a chronic worrier, what can I say? That’s what you do when you love someone, and I do love Mark. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I answered my cell phone. “Hey, Mark. How’s it going?” There was a long pause followed by a sigh after which I was pretty sure I heard a sob. I groaned inside. “Mitch died, didn’t he?” I asked, gently prompting Mark to speak.
         “Yeah, bout twenty minutes ago,” Mark said gruffly, in a barely audible tone and this time his voice did crack. “But I failed, Jordan.”
         “How so?”
         “I called him back, Jordan,” he said.
         “Did he come back?” I asked.
         “Well, no, he’s still dead, but I failed.”
         “Then you didn’t fail, Mark. This just means that you have something else to do. You’ll know when the time is right, Mark. We’ve talked about this. We’ll work it out when you come home. When will that be?” I asked.
         “Out in the hall, after Mitch died, Dr. Stangle told Alta and Uncle Dale that it would take anywhere from three days to a week before all the arrangements were made—the hospital to receive the Coroner’s report, the plight plan approved, and Mitch’s body transferred from the Coroner’s office to the Medical Transport plane. We’ll be staying at the Hospice Center until the arrangements are complete.”
         “Where are they now?”
         “They’re up on the fourth floor in Dr. Stangle’s office, and I think the doctor’s doing more than just talking about the trip home. I think he’s counseling them.”
         “Here’s what I want you to do. From what you’ve told me about that place, I’, sure there’s at least one recliner in the lobby.”
         “There is. There’s one on either side of the gigantic fireplace. You’d love it.”
         “When you hang up with me, I want you to go to the lobby and commandeer one of those chairs, empty your mind and rest. Remember, Mark, you did not fail. Is that clear? Use those words as your mantra if you must. You did not fail. Relax and rest. And when you get back to the Hospice Center, go to your room and meditate. We can talk every day until you leave Dallas. Hang in there. It’s going to be alright. What happened when Mitch died was just a knee-jerk reaction. If you hadn’t had that reaction; I’d worry about you. I know Mitch didn’t mean anything to you anymore, but you and he were once very close for years before the war, you lived at Grayson hall until just before Perry Grayson died, so you were bound to have a reaction of some sort. Hang in there, everything will go well.”
         “Oh, Jordan, I so appreciate your friendship. You don’t make fun of me; you just listen and encourage me.”
         “That’s what friends are for, Mark. Now go and get some rest.
         “I will, goodnight. Talk to you tomorrow.”
         The line went dead, I disconnected the phone, straightened the incliner and headed for the bedroom where I slipped off my sweats, climbed into bed in my Boxer Briefs, pulled the warm blankets around my chin and closed my eyes. “Rest well, Mark,” I whispered.
         The next day as I put the studio in once piece again, I thought about how Mark and I’d had several conversations concerning how to go forward after Mitch died. At first, he wouldn’t even talk about the portraits of Mitch, saying they were among the best works in his portfolio and with that I had to agree. I’ve seen many of the works in Mark’s portfolio and of his paintings, these two portraits were truly among the best. Mark referred to the portrait of Mitch that hung in the Studio Suite as his Memory portrait since it was a portrait of the Mitch he remembered him before he’d changed; and he’d painted the portrait of Mitch that hung over the ornate fireplace mantle in the Great Room the year after Mitch had moved into the penthouse. Within a month after Mitch had come a week later, Mitch had taken the first of his many hiatuses, and during that time, Mark had so expertly superimposed himself seated next to Mitch on the velvet upholstered bench sitting in the studio that an art connoisseur would be hard-pressed to label it an amateur rendering. I’d asked him why he never became a professional and he told me that the stress of deadlines and touring would take the fun out of the occupation. I could understand that. I had a very good friend who’d gone pro and suffered a heart attack a year later. He’d spent six weeks in the hospital, recovering not just from the heart attack, but general bad health that had come from poor diet and not enough sleep. So, yeah, I understood. But in the last year Mark had realized that although the portraits held little if any sentimental value, they still had to go.



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