Elizabeth Masen stood in the kitchen with a cup of tea in her hands, looking through the window at her son—who was assisting one of the servants by piling chopped wood for the stove—and tried to not let her mind wander to all of her worries, which concerned the fifteen-year-old boy.
Her son was the most important part of her life, and he had been ever since she first heard his cries after his birth, but she had often wondered if her love had been enough for him. He was a great young man, a gentleman that she took pride in having raised well, but she was afraid that his lack of fatherly affection would have a great impact on the person he would become.
For one thing, he did not seem too eager about actually having a family of his own one day. All he seemed to care about was being drafted, and she knew that the only thing that kept him from talking about it all day was her disposition against his choice, as well as the fact that he was underage. Elizabeth fervently hoped that the war would come to an end before her son was old enough. She wouldn't really have anything against him enlisting; she just did not want him out in the war. She would worry too much.
”Mrs. Masen? Are you finished with your tea?” Mary, the housekeeper, brought Elizabeth out of her thoughts and she looked down at the cup of tea, which was now cold, before giving it to the younger woman.
”Yes, thank you, Mary." Her eyes wandered back to the boy in the backyard. He had grown quite a lot during the year which he had been away at school and he was now almost as tall as his father. Overall, he did look a lot like her husband, Edward Masen Sr.—except the traits he got from her, which were her green eyes and bronze locks—and the resemblance had intensified as the boy grew older.
Now her son straightened his back and wiped the sweat off his forehead, before giving a nod to the servant, George, and heading back inside. He came in through the kitchen door and kissed her on the cheek.
“Would you like some lemonade, dear? Mary just made some,” she said, taking his jacket from him and folding it over a chair.
“That would be wonderful, Mother. Thank you.” He sat down in a chair next to the working bench, after washing his hands. He ran his fingers through his hair to get it out of his eyes. It was astounding how much he resembled his father when he did that.
Elizabeth put the cold glass of lemonade in front of her son and he gulped it down. It was a hot summer's day and he was not particularly used to manual labor, but fortunately, her son was a fit boy. "You should wash up before dinner. Your father will be home any minute."
“Have you given his proposition any more thought?”
The young boy sighed softly and was reluctant to meet his mother’s eyes. He knew where this would go, and had the choice been his in the matter, he would have wanted to avoid the subject altogether. “Mother, you know why I am not too eager. I don’t dream of becoming a lawyer like Father.”
“I know that, but it would bring in a steady income and it would make things easier the day that you find a nice girl that you want to—”
“Mother,” he interrupted her and shook his head. “Why do you always bring this up? When I feel that I am ready, I will find a girl to settle down with, but it won’t happen in a few years, especially not while I remain at school.”
“But, Edward, you have to understand that I grow worried. You don't show any interest in settling down whatsoever. When I was your age, I had already met your father."
“Yes, you were. But Father was not. He had already experienced what he wanted and achieved his dreams when he met you. I want that, too.”
Elizabeth walked up to her son and stroked his hair lovingly. The boy leaned his head on his mother’s chest and listened to her heartbeat. It had always calmed him down. “I understand, honey. I just wish your dreams were less complicated.” She leaned away from him and put her hands around his face. “Now go wash up. Mary’s putting dinner on the table in twenty minutes.”
Edward nodded and stood up, towering over his mother in a way that she had just recently gotten accustomed to. With slightly heavier steps than usual, he went upstairs to do what his mother told him.
As he got dressed and combed his hair, he could hear how his father came home and greeted his mother. Just like every other day.
“Dinner will be ready in just a few minutes,” his mother said from below. Her voice was accompanied by the clinking of ice in the glass of scotch she handed to his father.
“That sounds wonderful, love.” His father’s voice was laced with exhaustion. It must have been another heavy day at the office.
Edward sighed when he realized he would have to stay on his toes during dinner. The smallest flaw in his behavior could set his father’s temper off in a second on nights like these.
He waited an extra two minutes before he descended the stairs and joined his parents in the lounge.
His father was stirring the ice cubes around in his glass, his eyes were closed and he was leaning back in one of the plush armchairs. His mother was sitting with her back very straight—a trait left after having worn a corset for most of her life, even though she wasn’t wearing one anymore—on the sofa, reading a book.
“Good evening, sir.”
“Son,” the older man replied without opening his eyes.
Elizabeth looked up from her book and smiled at her son. He smiled back weakly, feeling discouraged by the way he was greeted by his father. It was the same every day, but it still twisted around uncomfortably inside him every time.
Mary walked inside and announced that dinner was ready before disappearing back into the kitchen.
After the grace, his father announced that he had to go away for business for a few days.
“I have to leave early on Wednesday and I will hopefully be home on the eve of Saturday,” he said, and Edward’s stomach dropped.
“But, sir, what about my concert on Friday? You promised you would be there.”
Edward Sr.’s hand froze on its way to the glass of wine, and he studied his son for a long moment. He did not want to admit that he had completely forgotten about his son’s concert. His wife had spoken about it for weeks, stressing about how important it was for their son. He had promised to attend, but it would be impossible now. He simply could not postpone this business trip.
“I’m sorry, Son, but this came on so suddenly. I could not say no.” He did not show how his son’s disappointed expression affected him.
“Edward, please, there must be some way for you to attend. Can’t you come back a day earlier?” his wife tried.
He shook his head. “I’m afraid not, love.” He turned to his son. “I promise to be there for the next concert,” he said and continued eating.
Edward just moved his food around on his plate and shrugged. “Okay.”
That was the last time he ever trusted one of his father’s promises.