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© Jean Jardine Miller 2004.
"You didn't get a phone number or anything?"
Her mother's voice, over the phone, sounded incredulous.
"I didn't get a chance," said Megan. "He just suddenly upped and decided to leave. There was no stopping him. It was like when he was little, you know - forget this scene, time to move on... We were getting along like a house on fire, then he started getting irritable and argumentative all of a sudden."
She had finished feeding the baby after Angus's departure and after putting him in the playpen rather than back in his crib, since he did not appear to be very sleepy, she had called Alan at McGrath-LaPlante only to be told that he was in a meeting. She debated whether to ask for one of her brothers, then decided to phone her mother first.
"Was it something you said?" Marilyn was asking.
Megan thought back over the conversation.
"I don't think so," she said. "I was feeding Steven - he'd specifically said he wanted to see Steven - and he remarked on how like Alan he is, so I just said my usual line about Old Denny chuckling in his grave..."
"He wouldn't have understood that..."
"I know. He said he'd never known much about the company and rather cynically - coolly admitted it, too - said he'd make sure he got back in favour with his father before Michael kicks off - his words, not mine - so that he could be sure of inheriting his shares..."
"I thought so, too, but I don't think I over-reacted. I was being careful not to let anything he said shock me because I wasn't about the scare him off... It wasn't anything I said, I'm sure. I think he just got bored with me."
"Well, there's nothing we can do - other than hope he'll either phone or show up on your doorstep again. You're the only one of us living in the same house you lived in before he ran off. I wonder if he still has Danny's phone number. We'll just have to wait and see what happens, I suppose. 'Course he may show up there for supper, with these other kids, tomorrow..."
"I doubt it," Megan said. "It was obvious that the idea didn't exactly turn him on."
"Well, you did your best, love," her mother told her. "There's not much more you can do. What does Alan say?"
"I haven't told him yet. He's in a meeting. I said not to bother telling him to call me back - I'll wait and tell him when he gets home, I think. He won't appreciate hearing the latest on Angus coming out of whatever the meeting was. I'm going to wait till he's home before I call Michael, though - in case I need a shoulder! It's still only lunch time there anyway, so it'll be better to call when they're sure to be home."
"At that rate you'll be putting it off until quite late. I think I'll call Judith and tell her about it. I'll let her know you're telling Michael yourself - okay?"
"Sure," Megan agreed. "Now, I guess I'm committed. Hopefully Lise'll answer the phone and Michael will be out."
"I know. Do you hear Steven gurgling away?" She held the phone over the playpen. "Hear him?" she asked, putting it back to her ear. "He didn't seem very sleepy after his bottle, so I laid him in the playpen. He's watching the mobile and laughing and kicking - having a great time. I guess I'll have to give up on the idea of working this afternoon now. Oh-ho, Mathilda's eyeing the mobile again - she jumps up at it and I'm afraid of her landing on Steven. Talk to you later, Mom. 'Bye."
She caught the cat in mid air. The baby watched them solemnly for a moment, then turned his attention back to the mobile over the playpen.
"I wish you would learn not to do that, Mathilda," Megan said, stroking the cat's head. "I don't like having to shut you out, but I can't have you falling on the baby, can I now?" She held the cat up and looked into her eyes. Mathilda let herself go limp and Megan snuggled her against her chest. The clockwork mobile began to run down. "Now, I'm going to wind it up again and I'll give you one more chance. You jump again and you're outside - okay?"
She put the cat down and re-wound the mobile, while Mathilda purred and rubbed against her ankles. She stooped down and Steven twisted himself around to look at her and the cat beside him. "I think this silly cat just wants some attention, Steven," she said. "Won't it be nice when you're big enough to play with her? 'Though I suppose, by that time, she'll be too grown up to play..."
The cat was young, having been acquired the year before. The old cat which had belonged to Alan's grandfather had died some months before and, while they were trying to make up their minds whether to get another cat or buy a dog, a neighbour's child had brought Mathilda to Alan with the sad story that she'd been given to him by an aunt whose cat had had kittens, but his mother had decided that his sister was allergic to Mathilda. He figured Alan and Megan must be missing their cat, so would they like to have Mathilda and let him come and play with her now and again? So, for the moment, the decision was made for them, although Megan had been leaning toward getting a dog. Before Byron's dog, Ben, had died two years before, they would often pick him up and take him for walks with them. So, she rather missed having a dog with them when they were hiking. By the time the cat had settled in, plans for a dog had been put on hold - first because of their stay in India, then there was her pregnancy and all the preparations for the exhibition, then the new baby himself. Maybe by the summer, they could start thinking about it again...
Megan straightened up and walked over to pick up Mathilda's catnip mouse from under a chair on the other side of the room. She threw the mouse to the cat who soon became engrossed in pouncing on and batting the toy.
"There we are, Steven," she told the baby, "that gave her something to keep her busy."
The baby chortled and kicked his legs in reply. Much to Megan's relief, he was a happy baby who rarely cried. Working as an art therapy volunteer at the children's mental health centre where her friend Nicki's boyfriend, Brian, was now Director of Casework, she had learned a lot about emotional, cognitive and behavioural problems in children since the day three years ago when she had rather hysterically informed her husband that she didn't think she wanted to have children. However, throughout her pregnancy, she had still intermittently worried about passing on some corrupted gene, so that now one of her greatest joys was to watch her little son demonstrate his serenity. Sometimes she found herself watching the baby and brimming over with happiness, hardly able to believe her good fortune in life. Did she really deserve her wonderful husband, beautiful son and successful career? It was not a question she could answer. Today, after the visit of her cousin Angus, the question - or, really, the question in a broader context - was an even more difficult one... Circumstances had favoured her - serendipity, if you will. How would she ever have met Alan if her grandmother had not made that crazy will and involved their, previously renegade, branch of the family in the family business once again? Yes, she would still have gone to O.C.A. - her mother had immediately invested the proceeds of the sale of her father's McGrath-LaPlante shares to his mother, in an education fund to ensure that whatever happened money would be available for post-secondary tuition fees for the three of them. But, without the dividend income from the shares her grandmother left to her, she would have needed a job during and after those college years when, instead, she had been able to devote both school hours and free time to sketching, painting, continually improving and growing... Without Alan, she would never have had the huge studio to work in or have made the contacts among people, financially able to invest in the works of young artists, that came her way strictly through being Alan's wife. She could never have hoped for the huge success of her first exhibition, this critically important second one, the recognition of her talent, the media interviews and the demand for her work if Grandma McGrath had not mounted her crusade against old Denny LaPlante. And, while her life had been so propitious, her cousin's could not have gone more wrong! He surely didn't deserve that...
The sudden ringing of the telephone snapped Megan out of her reverie. Little Steven stopped fractionally then continued his intense study of his own kicking feet. Megan picked up the phone.
"Megan, it's me - Byron. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
"What? Oh, you mean work? No - I didn't get upstairs today. Guess who showed up? - or have you been talking to Mom?"
"What d'you mean?"
"Oh, nothing. I called Mom a little while ago to tell her that Angus had been here."
"What? You're joking."
"I'm not," Megan replied. "I'd had my lunch and Steven was asleep - we were out this morning and he overdosed on fresh air - so I was just about to go up and finish sketching in something I started working on yesterday and the doorbell rang. I dashed downstairs before whoever it was could ring the bell again and wake the baby. I opened the door and there was Angus - he looks a lot like you now, you know."
"Well, what did he want? How did he get there?"
"I'm not terribly sure what he wanted but, I imagine, he got here on the subway."
"That's not what I mean. How did he get here, to Toronto?"
"He hitched with two characters called Scott and Angie, who's into Zen. They went to the gallery last night and couldn't figure out why Zak asked them to leave."
"Did Zak call you then?" Byron asked.
"No, he didn't believe them when they told him Angus was my cousin - thought they were just vagrants looking to keep warm or, more likely, something worse than that - surprisingly enough! Anyway, I made some tea and gave him a sandwich and we were talking and everything was going along fine, then he started getting irritable and eventually just decided he'd had enough of me, I guess - just got up and left. By that time Steven had woken up and I was giving him his bottle, so I couldn't even keep up with Angus and show him out properly - he was gone before I was even halfway down the stairs. So, as I was telling Mom, I don't know where he's staying or anything - except that they're staying with the brother of one of the other kids and it's somewhere in the vicinity of the gallery because that's how they happened to go there. I asked him to bring his friends to dinner tomorrow, but he didn't seem all that crazy about doing so."
"Didn't you ask him where he was staying?"
"Believe me, if I had known he was going to take off like that, I would have done or, at least, attempted to. As things were, I was more concerned about gaining his confidence, so I wasn't about to risk him doing - what he eventually did do anyway - by having him think I was prying."
"D'you think he'll show up tomorrow?"
"I doubt it. All we can do is hope he'll make contact again."
"What about Adam?" asked Byron. "Has he seen him?"
"He says he has nothing in common with Adam anymore - not that he ever did have anyway, except us, I suppose. Anyway, that's the story of my miserable failure... What were you calling about anyway?"
"I was going to invite you guys to dinner on Sunday - if you're not doing anything..."
"What's the occasion?" Megan asked, flippantly.
"It's not an occasion." Byron sounded a little embarrassed, she thought. "Look, you won't hate me for this, will you, Megan?"
"Hate you? For what?"
"It's Bianca's parents... they want to meet you?"
"Oh God, Byron, that's embarrassing."
"I know. They only just found out that my sister Megan was the Megan McGrath."
"The Megan McGrath - they didn't really say that?"
"They saw you on the Canada AM interview... and they read the Globe and Mail. They eventually figured out that you were my sister and, yes - that's how they put it. Bianca had already invited them to dinner when all this came to light and she got a bit carried away and said that since we owed you guys a dinner, we'd see if you could make it on Sunday, too. She was showing off a little about knowing you - you're going to have to get used to that sort of thing..."
"I know," said Megan. "I didn't really expect it of Bianca, though. She always seems to be so practical, feet on the ground - you know."
"The thing is - she had a bit of a problem with her parents about buying the house with me and not getting married - they're sort of old-fashioned - and it's only been recently that they've come around to accepting it. This'll be the first time they've been here. So when her mother began talking about you, she figured that inviting you would really solve the problem."
"Maybe it would have been better if you hadn't told me all this, Byron. Like, just invited us to dinner... Look, I'll do it because you're my brother, but it I end up looking like a self-conscious idiot who doesn't impress anyone, don't blame me."
"You won't. Anyway, aren't you getting used to being a celebrity?"
"I'm not a celebrity. I'm getting all the press right now but, once the exhibition is over, I'll be forgotten except for the occasional article on O.C.A. grads, the young mother angle, establishment wives, etc. you know how fickle the media is..."
"Megan, you've made it now - you're Canada's most exciting young landscape painter. Next stop - the world."
"Funnee... Anyway, we'll be there on Sunday. Seven-ish?"
"You're welcome. Byron, can you get hold of Danny and tell him about Angus before you leave the office. I haven't told Alan yet, either - he was in a meeting when I called."
"Sure. Give Steven a hug for me and I'll see you Sunday. 'Bye."