I had always had my mother’s eyes.
I had never asked myself, not once when I was a child, if my staying in that house was legitimate. You know, one grows up believing to be someone’s child, unless there are substantial differences visible to the eye, one does not ask the question, one does not ask if you are really that man’s child, the fruit of that woman’s womb.
Ours was a reserved family, we lived far away in the countryside in an environment that smelled of dreams and fantasy. In the midst of all those pastel colours and bucolic life, one day a black carriage appeared at our door, in mourning. No decoration, no chrome, just black and a surly man who brought together the whole family, my parents, me, my two older brothers and my two little sisters in the living room. My mother was pale as a rag, my father squeezed her hand until it almost broke.
<I am here to confer with you the part of the inheritance that you are entitled to from Sir Arnold, your brother, my lady> said the man with the pointed nose, fixing his tiny black eyes on my poor mother.
There followed a very long spiel of rights and duties we had regarding this inheritance, and a list – which seemed endless to me as a child – of properties, names and basically chatter. I got up when they finished saying Peter’s part, because it was my turn, but instead of starting with my name, the man in black started immediately with Grace. I looked around puzzled, and I noticed that the intense blush of embarrassment had also been added to the paleness on my mother’s cheeks, and my father did not look me in the face. All my other brothers were also perplexed, except perhaps Benjamin, the eldest, who looked away as that man completed his macabre task and took leave of us, refusing to answer my questions.
<Mom … what’s going on?> Why did my uncle forget me? Why didn’t my parents ask questions, as if they already knew what was going to happen?
<David …> she gestured for me to sit next to her, while my father leaned against the back of the sofa like someone who knows that today will definitely be a heavy day. <We have to tell you something> I remained silent, I did not fill that void.
<When Peter was very young, we had Anne here in the house, a nurse who took care of Benjamin. She was about to have a baby, but during childbirth she fell ill and died, but the little one survived> I narrowed my eyes, hoping it was just the umpteenth story, the umpteenth gossip told by the servants in the long winter nights, but the voice of my mother and the warmth of the sun on my skin belied any of my illusions. <That baby is you, David. However, this does not mean that you are less our son, is it clear to you? Mom and dad will always love you, nothing has changed!> The echo of those words still tortures me.