Gustave often went to visit his mother alone. His father, the Vicomte, rarely accompanied Gustave. The Vicomte felt guilty about her death and it was difficult for him to face his wife’s likeness. There were very few pictures of her in the house, besides the larger one in the sitting room above the mantelpiece. Gustave’s father rarely visited that room. Gustave always kept a picture of her in a book on his bedside table. It was a picture taken during their trip to America; a newspaper clipping of when they had arrived.
It had been three years since his mother had died. Three years, and Gustave still remembered in perfect detail their trip to America. Though he usually tried to avoid thinking about it. The joy and intrigue Gustave had experienced in those few days made him feel happy, but he was always reminded of the sheer terror the came soon after – and the grief he felt for the loss of his mother.
As Gustave trudged across the city, he thought of his mother and how much he missed her. He felt as if he would never forget her kindness, her compassion, or her love for he and his father. Gustave remember how in the days before his mother had died his father had been a drinker and a gambler, but renounced it all upon returning to France. Gustave thought of how much his father must have cared for his mother, and of the profound regret he must experience every day. Gustave silently wished his father did not have to bear so much grief. Gustave’s relationship with his father was loving but strained. Raoul did his best, but often had a hard time understanding his son.
Absorbed in his own thoughts, Gustave hardly noticed when he arrived at the cemetery. The gloom and fog of the afternoon surrounded the entrance as he trudged on. His mother had been buried next to his grandfather near the back of the cemetery.
Gustave seated himself in the cool grass before her headstone. He watched her picture on the stone even though he expected no reply.
Her headstone as simple but elegant. It needed no embellishment as it was typically surrounded by flowers which Gustave assumed were placed there by her admirers from her days in the opera house. Today though, rather than the usual expanse of flowers, there was only one. A single rose, which laid on its side atop the headstone. Gustave inspected it with a careful eye. Soft-looking petals colored a deep red, a long perfectly green stem with nor thorns, and a silky black ribbon tied under fresh green leaves. How peculiar. Gustave’s father had been in his study all day, but the rose was still visibly fresh. Judging by the typical symbolism of a flower like this, Gustave could think of no one else.
Leaves rustled somewhere behind him.
The cemetery was usually empty when Gustave came to visit his mother. Most of the graves were cold and forgotten; unkempt with lack of attention. Was it possible that another had been remembered? Gustave stood and turned to face the source of the noise, but saw no one.
Gustave scanned the cemetery. He saw nothing but silent graves, cold statues, towering mausoleums, and the rose. Gustave’s stomach fluttered with fear. “Who’s there?” he called.
The sky was fading, and a gust of wind blew through grass. Gustave heard footsteps again, but faster. He stepped forward and for a second – a swish of cloth. Footsteps still, but quieter. Gustave began following the sound out of curiosity, but also for the fear of the unknown. He did not like the thought of being watched by someone who would not answer.
Gustave speed increased as the sound of the footsteps grew louder. Soon he began running, but then the footsteps suddenly stopped. Gustave’s pursuit had taken him out of the cemetery, and into the city. Gustave looked around. He was in an alleyway at the end of which he could see people and horse – drawn carriages passing by. The other end - from which he had entered, simply laid an enclosed path back to the cemetery. He stood, watched, and listened, but there was nothing. Perhaps it was just in his head? The cemetery wasn’t the warmest of places anyway.
When he returned home, a member if the house staff told him his father had wanted to see him in his study. It wasn’t unusual for Gustave to visit his father, but it was rare that his father was the one that called on him.
He entered his father’s study quietly, as he normally would in the rest of the house. The house had been much quieter without his mother since he and his father had returned to Paris. A place with was usually filled with the joy and music if his mother’s had turned cold and dark. The only place in the grief-filled halls to be graced with sound and music was Gustave’s room.
He found his father facing the window, examining the garden as the sun settled behind the trees.
“He left it all- all of it-to you, Gustave.” His father voiced, finally, and turned to face him. He paused with a bent brow and waited for a reply.
Realization slowly washed over Gustave. “He’s left...what? Does that mean he’s…dead?”
Gustave never actually heard from the mysterious and horrifying Mr. Y after his mother’s death. It had been three years and nothing ever came. No letter, no telegraph, nothing.
“This letter arrived today. It isn’t signed, but says that the man has left you his life’s work. For the life of me I knew we would hear from the bastard again but I hadn’t thought...”
Gustave watched the Vicomte as he moved to take his seat in the desk chair. He looked as if he was deep in thought, and muttered to himself under his breath. Unfortunately, this wasn’t unusual, but something about his father didn’t seem right. The boy knew how to read people, and could tell there was something else.