Fathers and Sons
Cassio Mollari loved both of his sons, but his eldest was the source of his greatest heartache. Sitting in his favored chair in the shadows of his bedchamber, it was Londo who most occupied his thoughts.
Londo and Atalo Mollari had been summoned by Cassio’s first wife when, after a frightening collapse, Cassio’s physician had concluded that he had very little time left to live. Steady Atalo came at once with his young family. But almost two weeks had passed by the time Londo arrived that morning, Urza Jaddo at his side. The delay was so great, in truth, that it had been feared Londo would not appear at all before his father’s passing.
As it was, Londo’s mood was dark in his father’s household. When the family and the house retainers gathered in Cassio’s bedchamber to hear more news of his condition, Londo had sat at a distance from the rest, staring out the window, his face shadowed by anger and hurt and other emotions that could not be named. Londo did not speak to Cassio, nor did he look at him, and Cassio had felt such sorrow- such a need to make right whatever had gone wrong- that he could not help but address his son directly.
“Why do you not speak, Londo?” Cassio had said. Londo looked at him then, his eyes turbulent. The others present turned and stared at the young man, but Londo did not seem to notice or care.
“What is there to say?” The question was clipped, chilly, and Londo had looked as if he would rather run out the door than be there in that place facing his father. The room began to empty as the rest of the household sought to avoid what they believed would soon become a quarrel.
Once they were left completely alone, the two men had sat for a long time, staring at each other from across the room, the uncomfortable silence ever lengthening, becoming almost unbearable. When Cassio could stand the tension no longer, he spoke, deep feeling welling up from the pit of chest:
“My dear son, there is much that needs to be said between us. It is not right that I should die before we have explained ourselves to each other. I do not know if I have enough time left to make my explanations, but I would like to try. Please, come closer.”
Londo had complied with the request reluctantly, his demeanor guarded as he sat down in the chair beside Cassio’s bed. He stiffened when Cassio touched his shoulder, but otherwise remained still. “I have always tried to make sure you and Atalo were raised in the proper way… tried to teach you what was best and how to live in this world. But you… you have fought me ever since you were very small. I wish I could understand what it is that troubles you, Londo. I wish knew what it is that moves you.”
“How could you know?” Londo had said. “Most of the time, you weren’t even there. And when you were, you did not listen.”
It was true. Cassio’s duties in the court had required that he be away from home more often than not. And when he was at home, his responsibilities had still consumed most of his attention. Yet it had burned to hear his son speak this truth with such bitterness. “I know,” Cassio had whispered. “I know these things. I have had a great deal of time to think about my life… as is the privilege and curse of every dying man… and I… I am beginning to believe that perhaps you are right to be angry with me. That perhaps I… have pursued the wrong things and neglected those that truly matter. I cannot change the past, my son. I can only ask for your forgiveness, if you will give it.”
For one fleeting moment, Cassio had thought he had reached his son, the storm in Londo’s eyes making way for something softer and more fragile. But as soon as it had appeared, the vulnerability was gone once more, walled off, imprisoned, buried beneath his anger. Londo then pulled away from his father’s touch, his hands balling into fists as he walked swiftly out the door.
This failure now sat in Cassio’s stomach like a lead weight. Reaching out an arthritic hand, he pushed back the filmy shades that hung over the window in his bedchamber and looked down into the garden. In the dying light of the summer evening, Londo was embroiled in a fierce battle with his dueling partner, the clash of metal the only sound in the otherwise peaceful estate. His son was fighting poorly- far more recklessly than usual. Each thrust seemed moved more by passion and desperation than by thought. As Cassio watched, Londo was at last overmatched by the considered moves of his young friend and he fell backwards, landing hard on the gravel covered walk.
For a time, Londo did not move from his supine position and Cassio feared that he had been injured in some way. Then, at last, Londo struggled to his feet. Cassio saw Urza try to help Londo and saw Londo push Urza away and storm out of sight.
Cassio touched the glass. There was so much pain, so much regret- so much joy he had missed. And he could see himself already in Londo’s eyes and knew his son was following a similar path. If only he could warn him. If only he could save him.
A single tear welled up and traced a line down Cassio’s face.