Aubrey stood there for a moment. The little boy favored Salim a little. Aubrey finally remembered her manners and spoke. “Hi. My name is Aubrey.” She was speaking to the frail woman but her eyes never left the small child. He was handsome but she could tell he was timid from his posture.
“Hi. I’m Brittney. This is my son, Ryan.” The woman spoke.
Aubrey beamed a smile and released the tension in her shoulders. “Oh my! Hello. Come in.” She stepped aside and allowed them to enter her home. She closed the door behind them and led them to the living room. “Honey, Brittney is here!” She yelled to her husband. Aubrey told them to have a seat on the couch. Aubrey didn’t know much about Brittney other than the fact that she dated Phillip, but she figured that Brittney felt some way about his death. Salim finally joined them. He gave Brittney a hug and affectionately rubbed Ryan’s head. Aubrey was a little confused.
“Would you like some hot tea?” She asked Brittney. Brittney declined. “How about you, cutie? Would you like something to drink?” Ryan didn’t say a word. He simply shook his head. Aubrey knew it would take some time before he felt comfortable enough to speak. She took her husband’s hand and sat on the loveseat.
“Aubrey, remember I told you about Phil’s girlfriend, Brittney? This is their son, Ryan. I told them to stop by when I saw them earlier at the morgue.” Salim noticed the slight look of confusion on his wife’s face.
Aubrey finally understood. “Oh, so that handsome young man is my nephew!” She smiled at Ryan hoping he would smile back. He didn’t. “How old are you, Ryan?” No answer.
“He’s six.” Brittney answered.
Aubrey nodded her head. She could never imagine losing her father now. Let alone at the age of six. This was probably one of the saddest days of this young boy’s life. No wonder he didn’t want to talk. Aubrey decided to learn more about Brittney instead. “So do you all live around here?”
“Well. I was staying in Coral Gables, but now that Phil’s gone I’m going back to Boston to stay with my grandmother.”
Aubrey had been to that part of Florida before so she knew where Brittney was referring to. Coral Gables wasn’t that far from Tamarac, Florida. “I’m so sorry about your loss. I can tell he meant a lot to you.” Aubrey knew if she ever lost Salim she would lose her mind. She definitely wouldn’t be as cool, calm, and collective as Brittney. This woman sitting before her had to identify the dead body of the father of her child. That had to be tough.
“We’ve been apart for two years but he was a great father. He loved Ryan so much, and their relationship meant a lot to me.” She looked over at her son, who still had yet to even make a noise.
“It’s crazy that he never told me that he had a son.” Salim spoke up. “We lived together for six months and he never brought Ryan to the house. I just don’t understand.” He shook his head. Aubrey reached over for her husband’s hand quietly and gently squeezed it. She knew he was still trying to cope with the death of his half-brother.
“That was a rough time in his life, Salim. He had lost the mother he had been searching for ever since he found out he had been adopted. I believe that’s when his drug habit got out of hand. He was devastated. There were a lot of unanswered questions that haunted him.” Brittney’s tone was flat. Aubrey couldn’t understand how she wasn’t breaking down at the mere mention of her ex-boyfriend. Has this woman even cried, Aubrey wondered.
“That’s understandable.” Aubrey said and Salim nodded in agreement.
“I just wish he had told me so that I could have been a part of Ryan’s life.” Salim stated.
“And you still can, baby. We can spend time with him before they head to Boston.” Aubrey attempted to cheer him up.
“Yes. We aren’t leaving until the funeral, Salim. Ryan probably needs you the most right now.” Brittney offered.
Salim stared at Ryan with tears welling in his eyes. “Man, he looks just like Phil.” Aubrey squeezed her husband’s hand tighter.
“Baby, I think I left my cellphone upstairs. People are probably calling. Can you get it for me, please?”
Salim got up quickly. “Yeah, I’ll get it.” And he was gone. He knew Aubrey had sent him on this mission to give him a moment to cry and pull himself back together. They both knew he didn’t want to break down in front of Ryan. They had to be strong for him.
“So how did you meet Phillip?” Aubrey asked once Salim had disappeared up the stairs.
Brittney smiled for a brief second. The first display of emotion Aubrey had seen from her since she found her on her doorstep. “I met Phillip at a jazz lounge out in Boston.”
“Yes. He was performing. Phil was a great singer.”
Phillip seemed to have so much going for him. What made him turn to drugs? And how in the world did he end up overdosing in a rundown motel room? Aubrey wished she had met her brother in-law. He sounded like an interesting man. “Wow.”
“That night it seemed like he sung to my soul, and he left the lounge with my heart.” Her eyes became cold. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Aubrey could tell something had happened between Phillip and Brittney, and it wasn’t good. “Are you all hungry? I have some chicken salad left. I could whip up a couple sandwiches.”
“No, thank you. We are about to leave.” Brittney stood up and Ryan followed suit.
Aubrey didn’t even attempt to hide her look of confusion. Did she offend Brittney? Why was she leaving so soon without an explanation? “Oh. Well, let me get Salim so he can tell you goodbye.” Aubrey quickly exited the living room to get her love. Maybe he could convince Brittney to stay a little while longer.