Prelude 65

“Aaron, you're a fine young man, and you know that I'm proud of you, don't you?”

“Yes, Dad, of course I do.”

“But I need you to do one thing for me.”

“What it is Dad?”

“Take care of your mother when I'm gone.”

Aaron at first thought his father was speaking about his next stint away at sea, starting tomorrow, but something in his eyes was amiss.

“Dad, what do you mean?”

His father didn't answer at first, his eyes focused dreamily on the setting sun over the waters.

“Ah, don't mind me, Son, I think I'm just tired.”

He put his arm around Aaron, holding him close, for the last time.

Prelude 64

The curtain drew back and a solitary young girl stood in the middle of the stage, draped in wispy muslin. She did not move, her face full of expressive concentration, her arms extended, her hands and fingers delicately curved.

The words of Ave Maria sounded in song and she slowly brought her hands together, in swanlike grace, falling slowly to her knees in prayer as the rest of the ballet troupe floated on to the stage.

The audience sat silently, spellbound. Aaron and Fiona watched the little girl before them, no longer little, but instead unfurled in the gorgeous bloom of young womanhood.

Prelude 63

Aaron fried the onions slowly in the olive oil, careful not to burn them. Once browned he added the freshly chopped tomatoes and basil. The secret to a good tomato sauce was fresh ingredients and lots of patience, and time was something he certainly didn't seem to lack these days.

Life in general, he mused, was about filling the space between birth and death, but the pointlessness of it all was less obvious when one had things to do, things to live for, goals to achieve, people to share it with. Now he felt the lack of purpose like a dull ache in his side, like he was just treading water, waiting for the end.

His tomato sauce started to bubble so he turned it down to a gentle simmer and returned to his book.