30 As the World Turns

Sebastian Cabot took a deep breath, swung open the door, and choked up. He came to his parents’ unit more often than his brother Matthew, who was often away on buying trips. Their mother and father would never greet them, hug them in the doorway, ever again. Only cats. Tears kept stinging out of the blue, over the least likely things. He set down his bag and heard the silence.

Matthew suggested that they keep the condo; it would be a place for Sebastian to live and a place for Matthew to stay when he came to town. But it would have to be another place, as far as Sebastian was concerned. He’d never get over this feeling, knew he could never live there. Maybe Matthew would feel the same. In daily contact since the plane crash that had wiped out family life as they knew it, only decisions remained. What was that old quote? It went something like, ‘All happy families are the same but unhappy ones are different.’ That wasn’t quite right; he would have to look it up. He hoped for no ghosts to arrive while he was staying here. Never having seen one, he still believed it could happen.

*   *   *   *   *

“Hello, you must be one of the Cabot boys.” Mrs. James rose to greet Sebastian as he passed through the lobby. I’m Ivy James. I knew your parents. My unit is on the same floor and we often visited back and forth. My sincerest condolences. Such a terrible thing.”

“Thank you, Mrs. James. I’m Sebastian. I’m here to settle up their affairs, staying in their unit. My older brother, Matthew, is still on his way back.”

“Perhaps then, if it’s convenient, you could come over to supper one evening.”

“That’s very kind of you. It might be some comfort to talk with someone who knew them well. They said they had friends here but the names didn’t really register, as I’d never met any of them. My brother and I are great travelers, you see.”

Matthew Cabot, older brother of Sebastian, buyer at Cathay Imports

Matthew Cabot, older brother of Sebastian, buyer at Cathay Imports

“A family trait?”

“Too true.” The following evening Sebastian came for supper, bearing a set of four wine glasses and a bottle of Merlot.

“Please accept the glasses, as a memento.”

“Many thanks, Sebastian. These are lovely. We’ll use two of them with supper, shall we? And if you would open the wine?” They sat down over salad. “And now how are you and your brother doing? When my husband died, at first it was all so… well, busy, and then, it was so empty. When you’re accustomed to a routine with someone, all these extremes are very wearing.”

“I dislike staying in the place, in that empty, alone sort of way you mean. And I’m used to living alone. It’s very nice but it’s certainly not empty. They were collectors, an occupational hazard. All those personal effects to go through. I’m waiting for Matthew on that.”

“I do remember some of their things, old maps on the walls and several large globes. I told them that my place was decorated only with my yarn stash, a collection of hooks and needles, and a cat. To each his own, I guess.” She brought a steaming dish of lasagna to the table.

“That looks delicious.” Sebastian was touched by her efforts. “I see that you also have a lot of books. Maybe you can help me to remember a quote that’s slipped my mind. Something about happy and unhappy families?”

“Let’s look it up, though funny you should mention happy families. It’s the name of a card game we’re currently learning to play.” She thumbed through the pages of her reference book of quotations. “Here we are. ‘All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’. It’s from Tolstoy.”

“Ours seems to have gone from one to the other.”

“Do you think that you will sell the unit?”

“That’s certainly my preference. I may have to talk Matthew into it. Don’t suppose you could recommend anybody to help us get it ready for sale?”

“Gervase would certainly be able to suggest several people. He’s always willing to help. I think I remember your mother saying that you were working somewhere close by? Would you be the one most likely to be involved in the sale?”

“Probably. Matthew worked directly with my parents. I did for some time but decided it wasn’t for me, not full-time. I was more interested in the traveling than in the business end of it. Right now I have a college teaching position. Cartography, can you believe it?”

“Seems very appropriate.”

“I’m trying it to find out if I can settle down or if I am destined to be a wanderer.”

“Is there such a thing as a freelance cartographer? Don’t you have to be in a lab with all kinds of special equipment, these days?”

“Mapping software, information systems…certainly for teaching tools, yes. Of course, the day of the hardy explorer singlehandedly charting coastlines is long gone but there are other paths to entrepreneurship. I may be on one of those.”

“And in very good company. This runs in my family too, in my sons. By the way, I’ve made some of their favorite cookies for you to take along. I’m always too full for dessert, after lasagne.”

“Very kind of you, becoming my ‘new’ mother, Mrs. James.”

“Hearts to homes. Can’t help myself.” she smiled. “There’s more. One of our residents is a freelance journalist and accountant on the side, who’s made the jump to self-employment. He’s our association treasurer, also. I’ll introduce you. I would guess he’s about your age, might be some company for you.”

“Well, thanks for your company and the home cooking, too, Mrs. James. And I will ask Gervase for his advice.”

“Remember, if you need another sorter when the time comes that I’m right down the hall and happy to help.”

That time did come. Once Matthew and Sebastian had done the first and most wrenching step of deciding the what and the where to do with things, there remained the packing and sending off to various destinations. Mrs. James gave them a hand with some of the more personal items while a service, touted by Gervase as very competent, was scheduled to come in to handle the rest of the removal. Gervase also suggested that they set up appointments to interview several realtors to determine what kind of listing services they wanted. Mrs. James told them that she had worked with one when she bought her unit and recommended that they be sure to speak with him, as he knew the building very well.

The brothers decided to get started on these interviews while Matthew was still in town. They scheduled back-to back appointments with three Realtors for the following Monday morning.