The introduction and prologue is here
Part 1, "On Monday, A Funeral", is here
Part 2, "On Tuesday, An Awakening" (which contains sexual situations...just FYI in case such matters disturb you and you wish to opt out of reading this part of the story) is here
Part 3, "On Wednesday, A Letter Home", is here
Part 4, "On Thursday, A Smile", is here
Part 5 (which contains sexual situations and some profanity...again, just FYI in case such matters disturb you and you wish to opt out of reading this part of the story) is here
* * * * *
Malcolm loosened his tie as he wandered away from the noisy celebration, a mostly-ignored drink in his hand. The guests of honor had been sent off in grand style and now, a gloriously hectic week, the time for rest and reflection was here.
Malcolm sat down at a festive table set near the edge of the cliff and gazed out on the Pacific.
There was but a slight breeze wafting up from the sea. Malcolm glanced back at the canopy where people were eating and dancing and laughing under the crepe paper arches.
He'd stopped counting how much this was all costing him several thousand dollars ago...whatever the final cost it was more than worth it.
Nikki had been gloriously beautiful in her gown and Malcolm's heart had felt like it was going burst in his chest as he escorted her down the path laid out on the grassy bluff...the sun pouring down softly, the breeze singing a song all its own...to the man who would make his little girl a wife (and in time, a mother.)
Nikki was so sublimely happy that it wounded him tenderly and made him want to freeze that feeling...that moment...for her to hold on to forever. But, of course, he could not.
Malcolm choked out the words that "gave her away" and kissed her softly hoping that the tear glistening in his eye wasn't too apparent (but he figured it was by the grateful, knowing little smile Nikki gave him as she touched his face and then mouthed "I love you".)
In his seat next to Angela, the animosity of their divorce having long given way to an abiding and familiar friendship of sorts, she patted his hand and offered him a handkerchief...and indeed a tear was tracking down his cheek...and smiled the smile that had enchanted a young soldier far away from home trying to make time with the "prettiest colored gal" he had ever seen.
Malcolm was so overcome that he even let go of his ill‑focused and unfair animosity of Nikki's beloved, a tall dark-skinned man just a year her senior, after so many tears, the year had finally offered a reason to be grateful to be alive...a reason to smile and be happy.
He glanced over at his son Keith, the sullen boy who had regarded Malcolm with feigned indifference more often than not had grown into a forgiving man and they had found their way to a relationship that slipped in and around the fact that Malcolm hadn't been around for large chunks of the boy's childhood.
His younger son David, proudly wearing his army uniform, was less forgiving but even that animosity was breaking down.
Malcolm knew that he didn't want his children standing over his grave with indifference and had made the effort to get as close to his sons as they would allow.
There in the audience, the sound of the pastor's bass voice faded and Malcolm remembered the bitter gatherings of earlier in the year.
Over the grave of his father, he felt nothing...not love, not anger, not bitterness, not loss...nothing. It was curious. He certainly had no tears to shed for the old bastard at this late stage.
There were tears, of course...his kind-hearted and ever-forgiving sister Amanda cried, her grown son Malcolm comforting her as much as he could.
Miss Violet, his father's second wife…and children (hers and theirs)…certainly cried for him. Malcolm wanted to feel something for the woman and the children...to understand the tears enough that he might share them...but found he could not.
Malcolm's sister Mary might have cried...she had not been able to stop during their mother's funeral...but it was hard to tell with her (and a moot point in any case as she had gone missing again and wasn't there at all.)
His sister Alice, sitting close to her husband, held on to the hand of her son and shed no tears; his brother Robert sat straight and erect with perfect military bearing and gazed at the closed casket with a volatile mixture of contempt, love, anger, relief, and loss that he could not disguise.
They all shed tears some months later when Mary had been found...dead from one too many drinks and/or one too many disappointments...in a dingy, faceless room in a dingy, faceless corner of New
She had kept Malcolm's number with her always and so it was he who had taken the call even though he was in
He had cried for an hour...cried like he hadn't for more years than he cared to count...before he called Robert Jr.
They buried Mary next to their mother on a cold April day. Malcolm remembered little of the day. Angela had come. Nikki was by his side the whole day.
Ellen had showed up to pay her respects, she and Angela forming a surprisingly warm bond as the only members in the sorority of Malcolm Josephson's ex-wives.
Robert, Jr. came in his dress blue uniform...having left the military and joined the New Orleans police department...paying his sister an honor it hadn't even occurred to him to bestow on their father at his funeral.
Robert, Jr. also came with his "life-partner", a white man nearly half his age named Glen. Malcolm still hadn't decided whether he was more surprised that Robert had come out as gay once he left the military or that he was "in love" with a white man (the irony of his slight discomfort with the latter not being lost on him in the light of his relationship with Ellen.)
They told stories and laughed and cried after Mary's funeral and in the night, in their mother's house (which Malcolm had bought back from the people who had bought it from their father years ago and in which Alice and her family now stayed), the four siblings...Malcolm, Amanda, Robert, and Alice...sat around the kitchen table alone together renewing bonds that had been allowed to fray over the years.
And now in the gathering shadows of late afternoon, Malcolm sat alone looking out at the celebration of his daughter's wedding, thinking ruefully of other bonds that had frayed over the years...of his own failed marriages...of his dead sister and his long-dead but still mourned mother...of his own life.
"Hey, soldier," a soft voice said breaking his reverie, "room on this bench for an ex-wife?"
Malcolm looked up at Angela noting yet again how kindly the years had treated her. "Always."
Angela sat down and patted his hand. "It was a good day, Malcolm," she said, "I've never seen Nikki so happy. Thank you."
Malcolm shook his head. "I wanted today to be perfect...my baby girl deserves the best."
Angela smiled wistfully. "Yes she does, 'Dad'," she said. "Things are starting to wind down and the boys wondered if you'd like to go get some coffee with us. David has to get back."
Malcolm's heart leapt into his throat. "Was including me your idea?"
Angela shook her head and patted his hand. "No, it was David's," she replied reassuringly. "But Keith and I thought it was good one..."
"Yes, 'Dad'," Angela said softly. "He doesn't hate you...though you gave him plenty enough reasons to do so over the years..."
Malcolm winced. "I deserved that."
Angela stood up and unapologetically said, "Yes you did." Then she added, "But the past is past. Today is a day for celebrating...our daughter is a married woman and for a little while we're something of a family again. Don't waste this time brooding alone by yourself."
Malcolm looked up and then stood up and took his ex-wife's hand. They started walking across the grass towards the canopy. "How come I let you go, Miss Lady?" he asked affectionately.
"You were a big jerk," she said, "and so was I. Life happens that way sometimes, Mister Man."
After making sure everyone got to the hotel rooms he had reserved for guests, Malcolm and his ex-wife and his sons sat in the hotel's coffee shop talking about Nikki...talking about the wedding...talking about everything and nothing late into the evening.
And just before he got into the taxi that would return him to the airport, David Josephson tentatively hugged his father and then threw him a respectful salute before riding off into the evening.
Keith excused himself with hugs for both his parents and Malcolm and Angela walked around talking about old times for an hour or so.
Under the stars, next to the hotel's vast swimming pool, they kissed passionately. And then, Angela invited Malcolm up to her room.
They made love, gently and gratefully, bringing closure and renewal to their relationship in the same moment; they made love for the first time in many years...and for the last time ever.
In the morning, they spoke of dimmed flames and the passage of time. Of bridges burned and new ones under construction.
They kissed once more, lingering in the moment, and parted as the friends they were and would ever be.
On Sunday, A Visitation