Tobias Botwin sat next to the pool with his washboard abs and his Burberry swim trunks. The cocky and crooked smile that crossed his unbelievably handsome face let the beautiful, almost nude, blonde that sat in the sun chair next to him know that she was lucky enough to have caught his eyes. He casually opened his wallet and showed her the ten legal notes that bore Benjamin Franklin’s aged face. She tipped her over-sized sun glasses down her long nose to get a better look at the wallet and its contents. Tobias lifted his bulky arm into the air and clicked his teeth. The pool girl walked past the customer that she was currently helping to do Tobias’ well paid bidding.
“A pineapple rum for me, and a long island ice tea for the lady.” Tobias had endearingly named the drink the ‘leg spreader’, and it never failed him. The pool girl took the order and hurried to the bar as the leggy blonde pulled her chair next to Tobias. The swim suit that looked like it was doing everything it could not to burst and expose her large breasts was all Tobias could look at. Even the loud ring of his smart phone didn’t take his emerald eyes away from the woman’s tantalizing bust.
“I’m Danica.” The blonde introduced herself and Tobias couldn’t help but laugh.
“Of course you are.” The pool girl kneeled to hand Tobias and his new friend their drinks. Tobias stuffed one of the bills into the Pool Girl’s swimsuit bottoms and she walked away giggling, love-struck by the playboy billionaire.
Danica allowed her legs to fall open just a touch, letting Tobias know what he was in for. She sucked her lips at him and winked. Tobias held her hand and escorted her to his penthouse suit on the top floor. He lavished her in neck kisses and dirty whispers as the elevator climbed floors. The doors dinged him to heaven. He opened the door while he focused on the stunning girl. His cell phone rang again and he clumsily opened it only to let it snap shut, ending the phone call. Danica splayed herself on the California king bed and motioned toward Tobias. He obliged and got over her body while he kissed her deeply. Tobias untied her bikini bottom and it snapped off of her leaving a red mark on her perfect skin. The room phone rang and Danica reached for it.
“What the hell do you want?” She screamed into the intercom, frustrated.
“My son.” Tobias would have known his father’s voice anywhere, even though a phone.
Tobias snapped the phone out of her well-manicured hand and broke one of the perfectly polished nails off.
“What is it?” Tobias asked breathless. After his father told him just what was going on, Tobias dropped the phone to the floor in shock. His face went blank and his heart stopped. “I have to go. Feel free to stay the night Diana.” Tobias grabbed his Gucci Suitcase and filled it with clothes that cost more than most people’s homes. The girl sat up, her once angelic face red.
“It’s Danica, asshole. And I’ll be ordering a lot of room service, jerk.” Danica sat up and retreated with her lower half still exposed to the bathroom and locked the door.
“I need my stuff from in there!” Tobias said knocking furiously. Danica threw his hygiene products at him with an arm that should’ve belonged to a Yankee’s pitcher and hit him in the chest. He hurried to pile them up and toss them in the bag as he rubbed the mark that was already bruising. He cursed under his breath.
Tobias ran out of the room to Danica screaming something about how she isn’t a piece of meat. He handed his ticket to the valet and watched as his cherry red Ferrari pulled around the hotel’s corner. He quickly Googled the nearest airport and sped across town. He threw his keys to the first person he had seen wearing a black vest and hoped it was an employee. He took off at a dead sprint and ran to the next Gate heading toward Arizona. He threw money around until he was finally on the plane. A moment of silence allowed him to lay his head back on the first class seat and he took a breath, not wanting to let his father’s words sink in just yet. He knew that if he had, his world would be crushed, rendering him useless.
The flight lasted much too long for Tobias’ taste. The exhaustion sat in as he looked out the window. Phoenix was nothing like New York, which was the reason why Tobias had become the prodigal son at his first possible chance. He stretched his neck out as he watched the skyline grow closer. The attendant that had been relentlessly flirting with him made another round to check on him.
“May I get you anything, sir?” She asked for the hundredth time. The question and the constant pestering had begun to crawl under his deeply tanned skin.
Tobias only shook his head, not wanting to erupt on the undeserving woman. The only thing that he had wanted right now was for someone to come to him and tell him that all this was a dream. That he had fallen asleep on the chair by the pool side and the most he had was a sunburn that would ultimately only add to his savage tan. Alas, no one had. His father’s words only hung in his mind.
“Your mother had a heart attack.” His father had said. Tobias clenched his eyes shut and let his head fall into his hands.
His mother had been his best friend since he had been born. While other kids in Tobias’ social class were learning Spanish and bonding with their nannies, Tobias was watching his mother knit and learning how to do it himself. His mother had been the love of his life, and now, her loving heart was giving up on her. He knew that most heart attacks weren’t really very serious, regardless of what the popular expression would have otherwise try to convince. For most people, with a little bit of exercise and a good diet, a heart attack is just your body letting you know that it’s time for a lifestyle change. Tobias’ mother, Blythe Botwin, wasn’t most people. Tobias had sat around and watched his mother as she battled lung cancer and COPD for years. People with those kinds of challenges were less likely to survive a heart attack. Regret and guilt washed over Tobias as he thought about all the time that he had spent with women who meant nothing to him, while his mother was scared and alone in a hospital. The tragic sight had been too much for him to bare. In his defense, he had only wanted to remember her as the spry and active woman who would take him to the park and play childish games with him the entire day. The woman who would chase him around the yard for hours. Not the woman who was nothing but skin and bones, slowly letting death breathe in her life, and leaving her sick. The pain was indescribable.
The plane landed during the early hours of the morning. The sun was soaking the sky a light blue and the tiniest flame of hope still burned in Tobias’ heart for his mother. His father hadn’t said that she had passed, he didn’t say that she was dying, he only said that she had had a heart attack. That was it. Anger rose in him as he thought about his father. Why hadn’t he done everything he could to save his mother? Was he too cheap to pay her way up the transplant list? Knowing his father, Tobias’ guess was yes. Darren Botwin was a certain kind of evil in Tobias’ eyes, and he always would be. The man had more money than God, and only spent it if it were utterly unavoidable. Tobias handed the cabbie his last hundred when he pulled up to the hospital. He threw the door open and ran to the secretary’s desk.
“Blythe Botwin.” He demanded at the secretary, making her jump.
“Ninth floor room 104.” She said and Tobias was gone.
Tobias got into the elevator and pressed the button that had the nine embossed on it repeatedly. He looked for a directory and lost his breath to see that the Intensive Care Unit was on the ninth floor. The doors opened and he got to the two locked doors that a nurse had to let him go through. He rushed her as she asked him who he was and who he was there to see. When she finally let him in, he saw his father with his head in his hand, possibly crying. The once strong and heartless man looked broken from the inside out. Tobias looked anxiously for room 104. He threw the door open to see doctors surrounding his mother whom looked to be asleep.
“Mom.” Tobias said like a lost kitten who was looking for his mother.
Blythe’s old tired eyes opened and she smiled, looking at her son who she hadn’t seen in five long, miserable years. She had been so weak and sick all that time and only wanted to see her little boy. The woman’s once long beautiful black hair was gray and falling out. Her bright green eyes that looked just like Tobias’ were now cloudy and glistened with tears as she called to her son. The doctors stepped aside and let Tobias hold his mother’s quivering hand as she spoke quietly and with a shaky voice.
“I love you Toby.” Blythe held her son’s hand to her face. It was just as soft as Tobias had remembered. She shut her eyes again and the machine next to her began to give off a loud and obnoxious whine as her chest stopped heaving up and down. Her hand that held Tobias’ to her face fell to her side, letting go of his hand.
Tobias let out a bloodcurdling cry and hit his knees as his mother slipped away from him. His father had showed up in the door sometime between her opening her eyes and the loud whine. He held Tobias by his shoulder but Tobias jerked away. As far as Tobias was concerned, the wrong parent died. The nursing staff let Tobias and his father grieve for as long as they needed. Tobias’ crushed heart kept him from screaming at his father. The two sat silent as the undertaker took Blythe to the morgue. Tobias looked down at his shoes as he thought about all of the phone calls that he had screened. They must have been from his father. If he had answered the calls he would have been able to spend more time with his dying mother. He was beginning to drown in his grief as his father grabbed his shoulder.
“Let’s go home son.” He said, leading Tobias out of the room.
The heartbroken pair left the room together and returned home in painful awkward silence. The giant mansion that Tobias had called home for his entire 25 years of life was the same as he had left it over five years ago. The garden was perfectly manicured with roses. Blythe’s favorite. The memories came flooding back even with Tobias’ will to keep them at bay. Tears heated his eyes and burned as they wanted to fall. His mother was the most amazing woman to ever walk the earth, and Tobias was sure of it. Tobias shut his father’s car door and walked up to the main door. It was three stories tall and engraved with beautiful artwork. The brass knockers that were lion’s heads hung just as they always had. They used to scare Tobias and keep him awake for days. His mother would tell him that at night they came to life and protected the house, especially him, just so he could rest and get a full night’s sleep. The door opened into the main foyer. A large round Persian rug welcomed him home. Flowers and candles surrounded him. He knew it was a memorial for his dear mother. His head fell and he retreated to the den before his father called him into his office. Tobias had never been welcome in his father’s all important office, so there was no telling if it had been redone or not. A taxidermy cougar sat behind his father looking like it was mid attack on his head.
Tobias had finally gotten a look at his father. The man used to be athletically built just like him. Now a stomach bulged over a tight belt. His once ferocious face that Tobias used to have nightmares about, had aged and grown tame in his wisdom. His once horrifying brown eyes were now tender and soft. The man was hardly recognizable.
“You’re mother already had her funeral planned.” Darren said looking at his son. The thought was morbid, but it was just like Blythe to plan everything out. “She wants you to do her eulogy.”
Tobias nodded and left to go sulk in his childhood room. Pictures of his mother and him through the years were all over the walls. He looked at each one with longing to have those precious days back. He picked up his favorite picture of his mother and him. Tobias had been playing in mud and Blythe swooped him up and hugged him tightly. She ruined a thousand dollar dress that day, and she didn’t care. A letter fell from behind the picture and fell to Tobias’ feet. It simply read “To my Toby” on the front in what remained of Blythe’s beautiful hand writing. Tobias sat on his bed and opened the letter.
“My dearest Toby,
You can’t imagine how much time I spend in this room. Looking at photos, touching your things, and breathing you in. You smell like black walnuts and apples. It took me years to describe the way you smell. Even as a newborn, you smelled so warm and comforting. I love you with every beat of my heart, and I miss you with every breath that I breathe. If you’re reading this though, I must have passed. You have to know that it’s okay son. I will look down on you every day that I’m in heaven. At least this way I can always see you. You must know that I’m not in pain Toby. My body hurts, but I’m at peace. I was blessed with sixty years on this Earth, and I have no regrets. I want you to be able to say the same thing.
Tobias held the letter to his chest and cried for the first time in years. Everything had hit him at once. The only person on Earth who had loved him was gone. She was God’s now and there was nothing he could do. He leaned back on his bed and smelled his mother’s perfume release from the comforter. He opened his eyes desperate to see his beloved mother. His heart broke to see that she was nowhere to be seen. Only the maid stood in the doorway. Tobias hurried to dry the tears that streaked his face. The woman embarrassed, looked away.
“Your father wants you in the dining room for lunch, sir.” The woman said before disappearing.
Tobias used every fiber of his being to walk into the bathroom and clean himself up. He had a long face and a square chin that was beginning to bare stubble. His bright olive eyes were contrasted by the deep red rivers that ran through them. His once spiffy suit was askew and disheveled. His hair was longer than he had normally kept it, and also was out of place. The sight was pitiful, but it was good enough for his father. He descended the grand staircase and entered the dining hall. His father sat with a bowl of lobster bisque.
“Son, we need to speak.” Darren showed Tobias a seat next to him, and he obliged. “Son, I’m cutting you off. From here on out, you will be self-sustaining.” The news hit Tobias hard.
“My mother just died.” Tobias said with an acid tongue.
“And my wife of thirty years just passed.” His father shot back.
“I don’t have a job, how do you expect me to live?” Tobias began to panic.
“Surely you have some saved up.” His father shrugged. Tobias, had, but it was measly. “Don’t act like I’m leaving you to drown son. I’ve given you every privilege in life, it’s time to utilize what I’ve given you.” Tobias hadn’t worked a day in his life and the thought was daunting.
“Why are you doing this?” Tobias asked with a sneer, knowing the reason. His father had never wanted to support Tobias, and now with his mother gone, Darren could have his wish.
“I don’t want you to be reliant on me son. Your mother’s death has showed me that I will one day be gone too, and where would you been then?” The look on his father’s face was sincere, but the man was a shark posing as a swimmer.
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