- Amet Aduleav won't be serving us anymore. I fired him.
I nodded, although I doubted my father noticed it from where he stood across the viewing room. I knew not to ask why—knew that his calm demeanour was a trap.
- It's only fair don't you think? Someone who's unable to keep time yet eats my money, my time, shouldn't be allowed near my property, let alone have my name in his mouth. I should have fired him a long time ago.
I felt his gaze crawl up my spine; a thousand tiny fires, scattering his intensity like cluster bombs across my back. For each second that passed, his carefully orchestrated snare tightened around my neck, smothering my effort to assemble a response that would placate him. Every word, every movement I did or didn't do, was being monitored. My silence was a test.
- I spoke to him, he continued. - He was crying, begging, naturally. Not that it helped him, you know how I feel about grown men crying.
- He told me he had two daughters in school. Did you know that? One as old as you, if not a year younger, and the other is just finishing up high school. The school fees are, as you know, not something Mr Aduleav is capable of paying off without a job.
- I told him...No-, I could hear the satisfaction in his voice, - I want you to guess what I told him. What do you think I told him, Ru?
My father was a hunter; the only way to evade him was to lay motionless and hope he lost interest. But he wasn't hunting for sport—not that afternoon. He demanded answers, and to deprive him of the joy of seeing me writhe against his noose would only make the inevitable that much severer. I released the peacock tail feather I had been using as a distraction and turned around to face him.
It wasn't that Stefan Konstantin was tall (he was of average height at one-seventy-seven centimeters), rather he calibrated himself to everything around him—his posture; his back straight, his hands folded in front of him; his clothes, half the layers of a three-piece suit and his very own line of alligator-leather oxfords—making himself appear grander than the zoo of taxidermied animals around him. People often threw the word 'stature' around when they spoke of him. I can't count how many times I've heard people say, "He's a man of great stature", and I've never been able to discern if they meant his height or his importance. Somehow with my father, the two meanings seemed to conflate.
He was smiling, more so in the top half of his face. Doubt weighed the words aggregating on my tongue and made them too awkward to take flight. His smile widened. He cocked his head to the side like an inquisitive bird. His eyes were copies of my own, and I hated that I could recognise that in him. A part of me was him. This man of "great stature".
- I hope silence isn't your answer.
Just like that, the mirth was snuffed out from his eyes. He slicked back the greying hair at his temples with a clawing hand—a testament to the violent outburst brewing underneath his tailored cool.
- You told him...you..you said he couldn't have it back, I said.
- And why would I do that? My father's eyes were razor-sharp. I could feel myself losing my footing and sliding further into his snare.
- Don't you think he deserves to send his daughters to school? He's been our driver for sixteen years, Ru. Way before you were born.
- I–I...I don't—
- I told him-, he cut off, - that he would have to speak to you. Apologise. Now tell me, is that what you'll say when he's sobbing into the receiver, begging on behalf of his sick mother and his studious daughters? Will you tell him he can't have his job back?
YOU ARE READING
If We ExistGeneral Fiction
🏆A 2018 Wattys Winner🏆 Two boys, one ethnically segregated town. Two sides, one war. Yuri Karamov's existence is like Schrödinger's cat, simultaneously both dead and alive. In Ru Konstantin's mind, Yuri is still the same vibrant young man he was w...