Everything I Have
Keelan Ellis © 2017
All Rights Reserved
Cliff arrived at two minutes to four, as impeccable as always, despite the later hour. Richard shook his hand, but this time clasped his upper arm with the other hand and leaned in a bit.
“I really appreciate you coming all the way out here,” Richard said.
“It’s no bother. The ride isn’t bad.” He looked around the living room. “This is a beautiful house.”
“Thank you. Can I get you something to drink?”
“I’m fine for now,” Cliff said.
“Sure. At least let me take your jacket. There’s no need for formality here.”
“That, I can do.” He put his briefcase down, slid the suit coat off, and handed it to Richard. “Usually that’s my signal that it’s time for a drink,” he said, smiling. “But let’s get this business taken care of, shall we?”
They sat in the kitchen and discussed Richard’s options for transferring money to Becky. Richard did his best to ask intelligent questions, but he’d never had much of a mind for—or interest in—financial details. Ultimately, he knew he was simply going to ask Cliff to tell him the best thing to do, and then pick that one. Over an hour had passed by the time they’d reached a decision, and Richard sat back with an exhausted sigh.
“I don’t know how you do this all day,” he said.
“I don’t. I mostly do other things you probably wouldn’t understand or be interested in, but wills and such are not my usual bailiwick. I did this as a favor to my father, because your father was such a big client for so many years. His business was instrumental in our firm’s success.”
“My dad never gave any indication he was sitting on that kind of money. I mean, you saw his house. I knew he was doing fine, but not like that.”
“He felt—well, never mind that.” He glanced at his watch. “I apologize. I really should be going.”
“No, please. Tell me what you were going to say, while I fix you that drink.”
“I shouldn’t,” Cliff said, standing. He looked uncomfortable, all of a sudden.
“I can’t force you to drink with me, but I’d like the company while I have one, if I could impose on you.”
Cliff nodded stiffly. “Of course. In that case, I’ll have a vodka and lime, if you’ve got it.”
Richard fixed his drink and poured a gin and tonic for himself. “It’s a beautiful evening. Do you mind sitting outside?” Without waiting for an answer, he handed Cliff his drink and walked toward the glass doors to the patio. After they settled at the outdoor table, he said, “I really am interested in what you were about to say, back there. I loved my father, but I can’t claim to have known him all that well. If you have any insight, I’d welcome it.”
Cliff frowned down at his drink. “The problem is that I realized I might be betraying client privilege. In a sense, at least. I have no business carrying tales from one client to another. I apologize for having said anything.”
Now, Richard was intrigued, but slightly nervous about what his dad might have said about him in confidence. “Look. My father is dead, and unless this is a legal matter, I think you’re in the clear. Whatever it was, I’m not going to hold it against you. If it was about me, I have the right to know.”
“Right,” Cliff sighed. “He once said he worried that you’d never had an incentive to strike out on your own. He felt it was his fault that you were too comfortable to have any ambition.”
Richard’s mouth fell open, and he sat back in his chair. “Well. I suppose I can’t find much to argue with in that. The question is whether or not it bothers me.”
“Perhaps the idea that he judged you for it bothers you more than the reality of it.”
Richard lifted his drink in Cliff’s direction before draining it. “Can I freshen that up for you?”
Cliff shook his head. “If I have another, I can’t be sure I’ll stop with that one, and I have a long drive home.”
“Listen, I was about to make dinner. Pasta primavera—hardly takes any time at all. Unless you have plans?”
“I—” Cliff looked a bit panicked for a moment, but was apparently unable to think of an excuse to leave, because he finally nodded. “Why not? I was going to stop for something on the way home, but this is more civilized.”
They went inside, and Cliff sat at the breakfast bar, facing the kitchen. Richard pulled ingredients from the refrigerator and set a pot on the stove to boil. “How about a glass of wine? I have to open one for the pasta anyway.”
Richard poured two glasses of white and handed Cliff one before he began slicing vegetables. “I guess it seems like a big chore to cook after you’ve worked all day and driven through LA traffic.”
“I suppose it would,” Cliff said. “But even if that weren’t the case, I wouldn’t have a clue where to begin. I’ve only been on my own for a few months. I ought to hire a housekeeper, but I want to wait until I’m settled. The apartment I’m in is just temporary. I’m planning to buy something in the next year or so.”
Richard looked up from his task and gave him an inquisitive look. “Still hedging your bets, perhaps? Hoping for a reconciliation with your wife?”
Cliff raised his eyebrows. “Do you always ask such personal questions of people you barely know?”
“If I’m interested enough to ask about someone, I don’t see the point in waiting. The sooner I pry, the sooner they’re no longer someone I barely know. Or, sometimes, they bolt as far and fast as they can. You’re still sitting here, so maybe you’ll end up being a friend.”
There was color high in Cliff’s cheeks, and he didn’t respond for a few moments. He took another sip of his wine, and then said, “I wouldn’t mind making a new friend. Particularly someone who doesn’t know me from the club, or through my wife, or from college.” He nodded, as if affirming something to himself. “And for the record, you were wrong before. It’s not that I’m hoping for a reconciliation. It’s only that I haven’t figured out what to do next.”
Richard lifted his glass, reached over, and clinked it against Cliff’s. “To the next thing.”