The days that followed Almas death were hard ones for the Avani family. Gage did his best to choke back his own grief, he and Almas had had so many wonderful years together on and off the police force.
Instead Gage focused on consoling the children as best as he could, he was even grateful for the snow days that gave them time to grieve away from school.
For all of them life in the tiny shelter was hard, no matter where they turned there was something that reminded them of Almas.
Brava was the worst, no matter what Gage told her she felt like it was her fault. “…. but dad if I hadn’t been her heir we wouldn’t have been out in the cold so long, she would still be with us ….” was what she kept repeating. Gage kept telling Brava that Almas had been very old and had known her time was coming “Brava you need to be strong, if it was her time then at least she went outside, your mom loved the outdoors she hated being cooped up in this house. Brava would sniffle and mope for a few hours before launching into another tirade, which made it hard on everyone.
Baako was upset because he had wanted to paint Almas portrait. He did extract a promise from Brava, to stand for him when he finally got good enough at painting. He extracted the same promise from Badr and Biff as well. Gage turned him down “I’m old and standing for long periods is just to hard on me these days, it’s better that you stick to you and your siblings. Besides you know you can’t hang any paintings it’s not allowed. Baako frowned, “I’ll find away to change the council’s mind” he muttered.
Gage decided that life was finally turning around when instead of allowing the dirty soup bowls to stack even higher Baako, Badr, and Brava almost got in a fight over who was going to clean the mess up. Gage decided that he should tell Baako and Badr about the journals their uncle had started that he was maintaining for the time being, since one of them would need to take over, not Biff though.
Gage didn’t like how Biff had been getting a perverse pleasure from the family’s upset over Almas death. Gage suspected his son was evil, but there was nothing that could be done about it.
Gage decide it was a good thing that Brava was napping when Almas ghost showed up one particular morning, as it was he had felt his heart lurch and almost stop at the sight of his beloved, how he missed her. Gage, Baako, and Badr almost lost it when Biff tried to sneak up on his mothers ghost to scare her. “Don’t you dare” they hissed in unison, biff saw the anger in their eyes and backed off. “I’ll get them” Biff thought to himself.
In the end Brava not only pulled herself together, but she went to each of her brothers and consoled them. As a family they all came to terms with the loss of Almas and slowly resumed their normal routines. As Biff watched Gage and Brava play chess he quietly made plans for the future. Gage felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck as Biff watched them play, and wished that he could protect the others from their brother.
Gage silently watched Brava talking with Badr and wondered just when it was that she had become obsessed with the cold. Lately it seemed like all she wanted to talk about was the cold. He wondered what her goals in life would be, but wasn’t sure he would be around long enough to find out. Baako had taken to practicing painting everyone’s portraits, perhaps Gage decided he should stand for Baako like Baako had asked a few weeks back.
Late one afternoon, Gage pulled Baako away from his easel.
“Baako do you still want to paint a portrait of me?”
“Yes dad you know I do.”
“Very well I’ll stand for you on one condition.”
“Anything you want dad.”
“Tucked between the cupboard and the wall are some books with writing filled into all the blank spots, I carry on me the most current set of pages.”
“What are they for dad?”
“They are your history. I promised your uncle I would fill the gap between his death and when you or your brothers were old enough to take over.”
“Oh …… but …”
“I’m getting old, it’s getting harder to get up in the mornings. I won’t ask you to take over just yet, we can wait until you finish school in a few months time. One other thing watch out for Biff he’s evil at heart he doesn’t need to see these, ok!”
With the terms worked out Gage let Baako paint his portrait, and wondered if Baako would ever try to paint the portrait of Almas even though she was now a ghost.
Gage also took time to discuss details with Badr, he wanted no mix ups when it was his time. Brava had taken to snubbing Biff, it was causing Gage some mixed emotions. On the one hand he was glad that she didn’t want to spend much time with him, at the same time Gage wondered what mischief Biff would cause because of the snubbing. He discussed his worries with both Baako and Badr when he could.
Brava stared at the chess table trying to concentrate on her next move while behind her Baako put the final touches on his first finished painting. The portrait had turned out darker than he had wanted. Gage coughed a deep rattling cough in his sleep. Brava and Baako both worried for his health. the lack of fresh air wasn’t good for old lungs but neither was the biting cold air of outside. They each silently hoped they would get a few more months with Gage before he passed on.
Gage watched as Baako, unsure of what to do with the first portrait stuck it behind the soup cupboard. Baako then started a new portrait of Gage.
Brava found a note on the floor, someone had shoved it under the door during the early hours of the morning. After reading it for herself she passed it over to Badr.