“It was a lovely service, dear.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Hapscomb.”
“If you boys need anything, you know where to come.”
“Yes, sir, Mr. Fitzgerald, thank you.”
“Such a shame, Brayden dear. It’s just such a shame.”
“Yes, ma’am, Miss Mattie, it is.”
The line went on and on; each of Coral Gables’ finest and, apparently, oldest, offering their condolences to the two brothers as they droned by in a procession of black lace and heavy tweed.
During the first lull in the line, as Mr. and Mrs. Henderson VI tried desperately to disentangle Mother Henderson’s oxygen line from one of her wheelchair wheels, Addison Satterwight turned to glare at his half-brother. He pulled at his tie, betraying his twitchiness. “Told you we should have done a private ceremony,” he growled disconsolately under his breath.
Brayden Bainbridge merely smiled serenely in response and wondered what the social repercussions would be for laughing hysterically at your own dearly departed father’s funeral. He thought it might be frowned upon, especially when the object of hilarity was a little old lady slowly suffocating because she was too stubborn to take her hand off the “Forward” button on her high-tech, pedestrian-flattening, motorized wheels.
“Are you laughing?” Addison asked him incredulously through gritted teeth.
“I’m honest to God trying not to,” Brayden answered in a high-pitched, wavering voice as he fought back the laughter. He covered the lower part of his face with one hand and lowered his head as the line began to move again.
“Oh, my dear, the grief will pass,” Mrs. Henderson soothed as she took Brayden’s free hand and patted it with a sorrowful shake of her head.
Brayden nodded and closed his eyes, covering his snorting with what he prayed was a believable sniffle.
Addison and Brayden sat alone in the back of the Town Car, lingering long after the funeral had ended and the other mourners had dispersed. They sat staring past the front seats and out the windshield blankly at the darkening coastal sky, both of them mentally and physically exhausted after the past several days of hectic scuffling and very public mourning.
“Ready to go home?” Brayden finally asked his brother softly. Addison nodded silently, and Brayden knocked on the window to let Wilkins know they were ready to go.
“You want to join me for a drink?” Addison asked, his tone of voice saying he knew Brayden would turn him down.
“Not tonight,” Brayden murmured. “Got a club to run.” He sighed, turning to look at his half-brother.
Addison merely turned his head and leaned his forehead against his hand, watching the scenery pass silently.
Addison Satterwight lay back on a wooden lounger and watched the iridescent waves beat relentlessly against the dark sand, his sweating glass held to his temple. His dark hair had become wild and unruly with the long exposure to the salty sea air, and his lithe body was draped ungracefully across the wooden lounger.
“Let’s just… take the boat and go disappear off the edge of the world,” he grumbled.
“I see two problems with that little plan,” Micah Parrish remarked happily as he walked up behind Addison and sat down on the lounger next to him.
Addison peered through the darkness at the club’s tennis pro and sailing instructor, taking in the blue polo shirt and white shorts the man wore. He raised an eyebrow at him, briefly leering at the tanned, muscular view for a moment before it sank in that Micah was wearing his club uniform. “Did you work today?” he asked incredulously.
“Who were you talking to?” Micah asked without answering as he looked out onto the ocean.
“The sea,” Addison answered with a distant, slightly drunken smile. “Why are you in uniform?”
“I’ve been working,” Micah responded in an equally incredulous tone. “The whole place didn’t get the day off, you know.”
“Day off,” Brayden Bainbridge drawled darkly from where he had been sitting in the shadows, drinking and watching his younger brother talk to himself. Micah was immediately on his feet with his hands behind his back, head lowered as he tried to peer into the shadows for his boss.
“Jesus, Brayden,” Addison breathed after they had both finally spotted him where he sat in the deep shadows of a palm tree. “Are you skulking in the shadows?” he asked with a hint of amusement.
“The only father I’ve ever known is dead,” Brayden murmured as he eyed them both. “I’m drowning my sorrows,” he said grimly.
Micah shifted his feet nervously and cleared his throat.
Brayden raised his chin and narrowed his eyes at the man before he could speak. “How were your lessons?” he asked deliberately.
“Uneventful, sir. Mostly the vacationers,” Micah answered curtly. “Teaching their debutantes and trust-fund babies how to play a little tennis for all the free time in their futures,” he muttered almost under his breath.
“You seem to be awfully condescending when referring to the people who help pay your salary,” Brayden observed coldly. He saw Addison turn his head and sigh audibly, and he watched Micah raise his chin defiantly in the silhouette of the moonlight.
“My apologies,” the man murmured in place of the vitriolic comment Brayden had expected from him. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he added with just a hint of sarcasm before half-turning to Addison. He petted him on the top of the head and then walked away, down the moonlit path and back toward the clubhouse.
“You’re a real fuck sometimes, you know that?” Addison said to Brayden as soon as Micah was out of earshot.
“You keep talking to the ocean, I’m going to have you put away and steal your inheritance,” Brayden responded before taking another sip of his drink.
“Hmph,” Addison offered sulkily, but he didn’t respond otherwise.
Brayden smirked triumphantly and sighed contentedly. It wasn’t often that Addison couldn’t come up with a smartass response to something he said. Even though he knew it was the liquor at fault, he still counted it as a point for him on their imaginary chalkboard. He closed his eyes and lifted his face to the cool night breeze and tried to enjoy the sound of the ocean.
The country club pretty much ran itself day to day. When they’d returned to the club after the funeral, there really hadn’t been much for Brayden to do. He just hadn’t wanted to go home to a house that would echo his footsteps in the darkness. Why Addison hadn’t gone home either, Brayden couldn’t guess. He had long ago stopped trying to keep up with his brother’s mind. He’d come out here, knowing this was where Addison would eventually show up if he was still at the club, and he’d sat down with his drink to wait. Just in case.
“How long were you sitting there?” Addison asked after a while.
“Actually, I was sitting here when you came stumbling out,” Brayden answered as he picked up his glass and turned it around through the air until the melting ice inside was going in circles.
“Did you see me face-plant into the sand?” Addison asked with a drunken laugh.
Brayden huffed and answered, “I did. I thought briefly about helping you up, but watching you wallow was more entertaining, in the end.”
Addison responded with a disgruntled huff, leaning back in the lounger and flailing briefly when the thing almost tipped him out of it. He wound up wearing what was left of his melted ice and cursing softly as he brushed at it.
Brayden chuckled. His half-brother was probably the only person in the world who could fall out of a lounge chair that was literally bolted to the deck.
In the distance of the still night, there was a shuffling sound on the wooden boardwalk, as if someone had started down the path toward the beach, heard Addison and Brayden out there talking, and turned around. Brayden knew that the cleaning crew was still out and about, and he figured one of the janitors had expected to find Addison sitting out here alone. One thing Brayden knew about his brother was that he was generous with his stash of pot.
Addison turned to look, peering into the darkness to try to see who it had been. He looked back at Brayden, shrugged, and then settled back into his chair.
Brayden watched him, knowing what was running through his brother’s mind.
“Hey, Brayden?” Addison murmured after a long silence in which they both sat with their own thoughts. “Why do you think he did it?” he asked softly.
“Huh?” Brayden asked in feigned confusion. He shifted uncomfortably and swirled his drink nervously. He wasn’t good at this kind of thing. The less of it he could do, the better off everyone was.
“Father. He killed himself, didn’t he?” Addison responded with a certainty Brayden had rarely heard in his capricious brother’s voice. “Why, do you think?”
Brayden sat up and blinked through the dim light, squinting to see past the blurry vision of his whiskey. Sometimes Addison still surprised him. “What makes you think he killed himself?” he asked, his voice laced with morbid fascination.
“He was in good health his last checkup,” Addison pointed out.
“He was also a heavy drinker, and his kidneys finally gave out, man,” Brayden countered as he leaned forward into the light, glancing back down the path with a frown. He wasn’t sure if they were being overheard. He supposed it wasn’t really important, though, in the end.
Addison glanced at him with a shake of his head and then looked back out to the sea wordlessly. Brayden sighed and flopped back onto the lounger.
His younger brother had always been the black sheep of the family: flighty and hot-headed and restless. He had even taken his mother’s maiden name just to piss off their dad when he had turned eighteen. But Addison had never been one to come to conclusions hastily, nor was his mind easily changed once he reached a decision. Everyone in Coral Gables knew that.
If Addison believed their father had killed himself, then he would believe it until the day he died or someone proved him wrong.