I have finally sold my house in Florence and was preparing to move to my new abode in France. The King of France is very fond of me, it seems, and I shall grant him an audience and perhaps a performance.
Mother will be joining me, of course. It is strange, that word. I’ve never known a mother, only a father. The women that took care of me in Master Bartolomeo’s school were only nurse-maids and they never spoke to me much.
It was nice, having a Mother.
As we travelled in our cab on our long journey to France, I asked her, “Mother, you told me that Father had died some time ago… How did he die?”
She looked at me with some sadness, “Your father… I’m not entirely sure. Just the people that he worked for were not good people. They probably killed him.”
“Was he a good man?”
“He was gentle and loving and good,” she said, nodding, “But also fierce, his anger was large and easily tempted. He’d lost his family at a young age and he’d never survived the scars that that left him.”
“How did you meet?”
She laughed. Her laugh was so tuneful, “I shall not tell you that, Bthash.”
“And what of my brother? You said I had a second. A double.”
She frowned again, sadly, “I do not know where he has gone. It was easy to find you, famous as you were. But I have no knowledge of where your brother is.”
“Did he look exactly like me?”
“Yes. Both of you were split images of your father,” she looked at me, “Though I see a few differences now, I’m sure Abel still looks like you,” she paused and mused, “How did they find your name?”
“Master Bartolomeo said something about the slaver. He was a dark little man, who knew my name. Said he’d been watching me for a long time, for the right time to take me – from you. That’s how he knew. He had all my papers, too. Mother… are you originally French? All my papers define my nationality being French.”
“No,” she scoffed, “I’m originally Scottish, I think, and your father was ethnically part Bengali and part Arab. His father and mother were British-born, but he was brought up in Normandy, and I’ve lived in France all my life. Before I went looking for you.”
I paused, “You ‘think’ you’re Scottish?”
“I never knew my parents, Bthash.”
“More bad people?”
“I’d rather not talk about it, child.”
“So… so, are you still looking for him?”
“Abel. Are you still looking for him?”
She looked away, as if ashamed.
“I could help.”
“I have no idea where he is, Bthash,” she repeated, “He might well be dead.”