Even after all this time,
The sun never says to the earth,
"You owe me."
Look what happens with a love like that.
It lights the whole sky.
Hafiz of Persia
Pascal's Boys is a beautiful story about the power of love, but not just romantic love.
It was written as a means of coming to terms with the death of a man who was very influential in my life.
The romance between Tom and Adam is in the background of the story rather than to the fore. The main focus of the story is on Pascal, the man who links the lives of his 'boys.'
Tom brewed fresh coffee. He set the percolator pot on the kitchen table and sat down, flicking through a glossy gardening magazine while listening out for footsteps descending the stairs. They came at last and he poured the aromatic liquor into two mugs, adding cream and sugar to one, leaving the other black. He looked up as Ian, doctor and close family friend, entered the kitchen, waiting until he was seated before asking the usual question. “How is he this morning, Ian?”
“Weaker.” Ian ran a hand through his silver grey hair. “I don’t think it will be long now, Tom, days, a week or two if he’s lucky, not much more than that. It’s a miracle he’s kept going as long as he has. He has the heart of a lion and a will to match.” He touched a kind hand to Tom’s stricken face, “let me arrange for a Macmillan Nurse to come in and help you care for him? You look tired. You need a break. These past months have been hard for you.”
“No.” Tom shook his head. “I’ll care for him. Adam helps and now he’s finished classes for the summer I’ll at least be able to spend a little more time at the garden centre, it’s all the break I need.”
“How is the expansion progressing?” Ian picked up the mug of creamy coffee, blowing on it to cool it.
“Slowly, they’re behind schedule, which is why I’ll be glad to get over there more often to chivvy the workmen along. I was hoping Pascal would…” he picked up a spoon, stirring his coffee, concentrating on the dark whirlpool it made in the liquid.
“He’s excited about the expansion, Tom. He was talking about it this morning and bragging about what a fine place it’s going to be. He especially loves the thought of the Mediterranean plant section. He can see it all in his mind’s eye. It’s enough for him. It gives him great pleasure to know you love the place as much as he does and that you’ll keep it going in his name.”
“Did he show you the blueprints again?”
“He did indeed. I got the usual guided tour by index finger. It’s a wonder the paper isn’t worn out.”
Ian sipped his coffee and then asked, “Where’s Adam, still in bed?”
“No, he’s gone to help a friend, Evan, clear his student digs and then he’s giving him a lift home.”
“You finally relented and gave him his car keys back then.”
Tom nodded, “on condition. He’s promised to drive more carefully in future.”
“Did Pascal know you confiscated his keys?”
“Of course. I never keep anything from him, certainly not with regard to Adam. Besides, he knew something had happened between us.”
“What did he say?”
“That I’d done the right thing. He told Adam he’d have done the same. He scolded him for speeding and said he deserved a good spanking. Adam wasn’t too suited about being told off by us both. He was even less suited when we refused to pay the fine for him. Pascal told him he had earned the fine and he could earn the money to pay it by working extra shifts at the garden centre. I think he expected to win over Pascal with his usual smiles and honeyed apologies.”
“Pascal’s death will hit Adam hard. I don’t think he’s accepted how ill he is.”
“I’ll look after him.”
“It’s a shame he didn’t stick it out at Oxford. It would have helped him to be more independent and worldly, to grow up a bit.”
“We encouraged him to stay, to give it a chance, but he couldn’t cope. He felt lost and frightened there. He just wanted to come home. The world and its wonders aren’t for everyone, Ian. This is where he’s happy. He’s enjoying his course at the local university. He’ll get a First Class for sure. As for growing up, he’ll do it in his own time. We all mature at different rates, that’s if we mature at all.”
“I suppose so. He’s only got another year left hasn’t he, what does he plan to do when he’s finished?”
“He hasn’t thought that far ahead. You know Adam. He lives in the moment. He wanted to study literature, so he’s studying literature. Some days he wants to be a poet and others a gardener, like Pascal and I, and sometimes,” Tom gave a smile that lit up his solemn face, “all he wants to do is lie on the grass and watch the clouds shift and change while philosophising about what lies beyond them.”
“He’s a dreamer and you indulge him. In fact you spoil him, just like Pascal has always indulged and spoiled him.”
“Pascal has always known when to stop indulging, and so do I, so stop your nagging.”
“If you say so.” Ian grinned and patted Tom’s shoulder. “Will you move back into the house permanently after Pascal’s death?”
“Perhaps, if Adam wants me to.”
“Pascal has divided his estate equally between the two of you. It will be as much your property as his.”
“This is Adam’s home, his safe space. I won’t ever violate it. If he wants me to share it, he will ask me.”
“Don’t forget it was your safe place too.” Ian paused for a moment to take another drink of coffee. “Does Pascal know things have recently cooled between you and Adam?”
“He’s noticed, but he isn’t worried and neither am I.” Tom’s attractive smile made another appearance. “I love Adam with all my heart and I believe he loves me. He’s just not ready to make a full commitment yet. I’ll be here when he is, whenever it is. At the moment he’s enjoying discovering his physical self and playing the field a bit. I did the same at his age, and I bet you did too.”
“True, though in my day it was much more difficult to discover your physical self, with anyone, let alone someone of the same sex. Being gay was an arrestable offence.”
“Things have moved on, thank God, though a few steps further wouldn’t hurt.”
Ian nodded an acknowledgement. Sipping his coffee he gazed through the open kitchen window, catching the scent of jasmine and lavender, listening to the drone of bees and the occasional high-pitched scream of a swift on the wing. Summer was in youthful bloom, full of sensual heat and promise. The promise was false. Autumn would come and then, inevitably, the sharp chill of winter. The fair days had to be enjoyed for all they were worth.
He glanced at Tom, feeling a surge of affection. He had grown into a good man, a little too serious perhaps, but kind and hardworking. “It must be getting on for seventeen years, since you came to live with Pascal and Eleanor?”
Tom nodded, “thereabouts.”
“Do you ever think about them, your parents I mean?”
“Not if I can help it. They never spared me much thought.”
“I’m sorry, Tom,” Ian grimaced, “Marcus always said I asked too many bloody questions.”
“And so you do,” Tom grinned, “but then doctors are trained to ask questions.” The grin vanished, “do you still miss him?”
“Yes. I always will. He’s my first and last thought in every given day.”
“Pascal believes he’ll meet with Eleanor again, and Marcus too.” Tom picked up his mug of black coffee, and then put it down again. “It was hard enough when Eleanor died and Marcus, but I can’t imagine life without Pascal.”
“You’ll cope. No one can deny grief is a painful process, but you’ll cope.”
“I wish I didn’t have to.”
“It’s a wish we all have.”
“Do you still hate the man who killed them?”
“It depends on my mood. Sometimes, when loneliness bites, I do hate him, but hate is a poison chalice and it’s best not to drink from it too often. I try to rejoice in the good years I had with Marcus rather than mourn the years lived without him.”
“Pascal says the van driver is to be pitied because he wakes up every day with the knowledge he took the lives of two people. He says such knowledge must be an even heavier burden than grief.”
“Pascal has always had a good heart. Marcus thought the world of him. How about you, do you still hate the driver?”
Tom shrugged. “I hate that he got behind the wheel when he was drunk. I hate the whole sequence of events that led to him ploughing into them. I used to drive myself half mad by going over it again and again and saying what if? What if the weather had been better, what if Eleanor’s car hadn’t broken down, what if Pascal or I had been available when she needed help in changing the tyre. I feel guilty too.” Tom chewed his bottom lip for a moment, “for being glad the accident happened on the way to collect Adam from school and not on the way back.”
“There’s no need for guilt, we were all glad for that mercy. They were dark days, Tom, for us all, but the sun came back into our lives and it will again, after Pascal passes on.”
Tom nodded, not trusting himself to speak. They finished their coffee in companionable silence.
“I’ll visit again on Friday. Call me if his pain worsens, day or night.” Ian picked up his bag from the table, his professional mask slipping a little as he said the words. A look of sorrow crossed his face. “He’s a good man, a very dear friend. I wish I could do more for him.”
“You’ve been wonderful, Ian, you’ve done all you can and we’re grateful.” They embraced and then Tom saw him to the front door, watching him walk to his car and drive away.
Closing the door he stood in the hall for a few moments watching sunlight dance on the polished floor before treading slowly upstairs to the master bedroom.