It was a time of quiet talks in the evening, a time of walking the town streets, visiting local sights, going to museums and nectar tastings. Nobody talked about going back. Of course, all three of them knew they had to, eventually. They had to go back to the house where everything reminded them of Tony, but it was like an unspoken rule to try to distract from this fact.
But even if talking about this was avoided at all cost, Sean couldn’t avoid thinking about the future.
When everything was quiet, and he was alone, his thoughts kept drifting back home. What would life be without his father? Would he manage to keep his family safe? And the thought that his mother might leave this world as well kept coming back, circling him like a pack of carrion crows. He would have to manage. He would have to take care of his brother.
But then, like a flash of lightning, the face of the chinese lady he met on his first day in France would appear before his eyes, and a smile would touch his lips despite himself. Sean was utterly, hopelessly in love. Her name was Kim – at least to him – and she was like a painting on a delicate piece of parchment, came to life. She was everything – intelligent, beautiful, interested in all kinds of things that moved Sean’s world as well. And she seemed to return his feelings in kind. Her Simlish was not perfect, and his Chinese was even worse, but they understood each other in a way that he did not think was possible before.
When he thought about her, a myriad of possibilities was revealed to him, and he knew he would do everything that he needed to, he would do everything to be with her, to get close to her, to keep her. He would do everything to achieve the partnership his parents had with each other, the mutual understanding that united them.
When he thought about her, he had hope, and strength to go on and do the things he needed to.
He convinced his brother over and over again to go outside when all he wanted was to hide in some bookshelf and read.
He was there when his mother needed him and tried to give her the same guidance that she gave him all these years. He tried to be her focus, her anchor, though he knew he could never be what Tony was to her – it was not the way of things. With Tony she lost a major part of her life, that she would possibly never regain.
But like a storm ravaged tree, she found a way to cling to life, to keep herself rooted to everything she held dear.
And when they went out, everybody thinking their own thoughts, Sean knew that they would find their rhythm again. That they would be fine, eventually.
So he kept taking his little family to museums and nectar tastings and art galleries and sunset watching sessions, and cherished every single moment of peace they found in simply being together.
And there were the conversations with Kim, where he would try to learn her language and fail miserably.
Sometimes they took turns preparing meals, which they would share with all the residents of the tourist center, and Sean learned much about her personality as well as her culture. She needed her space at times, but Sean knew how to deal with it. He had a brother whose idea of social contact mostly consisted briefly looking at somebody on the way to the library, or accidentally bumping into another person while browsing the bookshelves. He knew when somebody required solitude, and left them to their own devices. Sean was confident and comfortable on his own as well as in company.
And sometimes he needed his moments of solitude, too, where he would go off somewhere and read a book or play guitar for himself.
Sean was certain he could make it work with Kim, despite their obvious cultural differences, despite his family dealing with loss, despite many changes to their lifestyle looming over the horizon.
And as their time in France come to an end, he asked her if she would return with him, to visit his home, but she declined. She had responsibilities at home, she said, but Sean could visit her in China. It wouldn’t be the first trip to China, so he reluctantly agreed. He didn’t like the idea to be apart from her for more than a few days, but he, too, had responsibilities he could not abandon.
It was strange for a few days after they came home, but slowly, things started to fall into a kind of routine again. His mother nurtured her garden, and shot angry glares at him when he joked that nothing could kill those plants, they would be fine regardless what happened to them.
The neighborhood gatherings were taking place again, to make use of the still warm autumn days.
By the time Lloyd’s birthday rolled around again, Sean was comfortable with the way things had settled.
And when one day he saw his mother dancing with the recently widowed George Dean, who was Tony’s oldest friend in town, he didn’t say a word. He knew mother needed this as much as George.
They both had lost their life partners, and they would never find a replacement, but they were still human, and every human being needed human contact, and being able to lean on somebody, and being held close by someone.
They were going out to town again, all three of them, like they used to when Tony was around. Of course, he was still missed, and always would be, but life continued.
And Sean played his guitar for the general public, and earned a few tips now and then, though he wasn’t doing it for money.
When winter finally came, Sean knew it was safe to leave his mother and his brother unattended, and travel to China to seek out the woman he was in love with.