Paris, three years later
All the book shops and the department stores had the advertisement "At last it has arrived – the family chronicle of Gabriel da Silva. The author signs his books all week." There was also a notice in all the papers. "The publisher Cantal gives a reception today and there is an open house all day in connection with the publication of Gabriel da Silva's latest work, an edition de luxe in three volumes about the history of a family from Roman times until today. Da Silva and his co-writer and life companion, Sylvia van Hoek, are giving interviews at the reception."
Sylvia was nervous." I'm not used to be at this side of the table" she said. "What am I to say?" Gabriel squeezed her shoulder. "You, an old journalist, should be able to answer questions. It will be alright."
One of the questions to Gabriel was "Is this the true story about your family, M. da Silva, or is this fiction?" – "The author has his freedom to write as he likes – some of it might be true, some might be fiction." – "What is your role in this work, mlle van Hoek?" – "She has been my inspiration" Gabriel said "and been to one to keep all papers in order."
"Mlle van Hoek" a female journalist said "you and M. da Silva have not yet married. Do you have any plans to do so?" Sylvia looked at the ring on her left hand, a silver ring with a blue sapphire and diamonds. It was beautiful, but it was not a golden ring. "Perhaps" she answered "or perhaps not. 'Sylvia da Silva' that sounds strange, doesn't it?"
When the press conference was over Sylvia took a deep breath. Gabriel gave her a hug. "It went well, didn't it?" They blended in with the guests and soon they heard a voice they recognized. "Sylvia! Gabriel! It's been a long time!"
Ric kissed Sylvia's cheek and shook Gabriel's hand. Then he looked at Sylvia. "Slim as always. That's no good sign. When will you begin to think about family continuation? You have told the world the story of your family; you can't let it die with you? Where is your heir?" Sylvia's cheeks turned red and she felt a little embarrassed. Gabriel frowned. "Will will take care of that in good time, don't you worry. What about you?"
"Well, I will not press you. Since you didn't choose me" Ric said, turning to Sylvia, "I am now engaged to a sweet Parisian girl, Pauline. You will meet her tonight."- "Congratulations! We look forward to that."
Late at night Sylvia and Gabriel returned to their hotel room. She sat down on the bed. "I'm so tired. But it was a wonderful day." He sat down beside her. "Three years of hard work and my life is all over the bookshops." – "But nobody knows it's about you. They believe it's all fiction." She bent to kiss him. Then she said "What Ric said, about an heir – how do we do that? You can't be my son.." – "Leave that to me. I've done these things before. When the right time comes there will be a new da Silva, the son of some unknown woman who has lived nearby all the time. An old escapade – the son will inherit the name if they keep silent until I die. " – "A non-existing woman. Like your grandmother and your parents never existed."
"That's right. But it's not right to you to deprive you of having children. Perhaps you should leave me and find a normal man." – "I will never give you the chance to court my granddaughter, never. I love you and I will stay with you."
They stayed a week in Paris and then went to Amsterdam. Sylvia had sold her apartment long ago and they stayed at a hotel. In the evening they were invited for dinner to Annabelle. She had grown older during the last few years and now she felt more tired than before.
She sat in the sofa after dinner, and Sylvia took care of the dishes in the kitchen. Gabriel joined Annabelle and saw that the last volume of his book lay on the table. He went up to the window and looked out. "Your description of our relationship was very good, Victor" she said. He turned around, feeling his pulse increase. She looked at him. "There are things in the book that only you could know about. Victor would never write it down." He went closer. "Don't you think that I wouldn't recognize you? I see it in your eyes." He kneeled by the sofa and laid his face against her hand. She stroked his hair softly. When he lifted his head his eyes were red. "You look as you have always looked" she said. "Annabelle" he said. Then Sylvia entered.
She stopped and looked at them. She saw the contact between them and she was jealous. But she had no right, really. This feeling didn't hurt. But if, some day, he would leave her for a younger woman, then she would really feel hurt. But if that was the price she had to pay to live with this extraordinary man .. She loved him more that she could say. Quietly she withdrew to the kitchen and let them be alone again.
Seventeen years later
Ric Marais looked at the orchard when he went up the stairs to Chateau d'Envarennes. He has seen it many times before, in spring, in the heat of the summer, and in the autumn, like the first time he met Sylvia. Now the snow was heavy on the trees, and his heart felt heavy too. He would never more come here to meet his old friend Gabriel da Silva. He still felt the grief, although it was almost half a year since he received the message that Gabriel had passed away in a heart attack.
He felt too sad and had had too much to do to pay Sylvia a visit until now. Gabriel and Sylvia never married but they had lived happily at the castle for many years. Lately he had written less and not much was written about them. Perhaps he had been ill for a long time? He chimed the bell and a maid opened the door, not Mylene any more. "Welcome, M. Marais. Madame expects you in the salon."
It was nice and warm to be indoors. Sylvia greeted him with a smile "Ric, how wonderful to see you." They hugged and kissed on the cheeks. He looked at her. "Sylvia, you look wonderful, considering the circumstances." She really did, her hair slightly grayish and with some wrinkles around her eyes. She was dressed in black.
"It's good to have you here. I didn't like being alone. But I'm getting used to it." – "Do you plan to stay in the castle?" – "Yes, I inherited it. Gabriel made a will in my favor." They sat down. "Will you tell me about Gabriel?" – "It's not much to tell. When we returned from a trip he had one small attack. Then came the fatal one. It all went very fast."
"You had a quiet life?"- "Yes, Gabriel wrote some more books, but not like his grand work, the family chronicle." – "Talking about family – you never got your heir? Who will inherit all this?" Sylvia blushed. She rose. "Come on, there is somebody I want you to meet."
They left the salon and went to the study. She opened the door and entered and Ric followed. A man rose from the sofa and turned to face them. Ric almost got a shock. The man had brown curly hair and brown eyes, otherwise he looked like Gabriel – a young Gabriel – so much you could almost believe it was the same person. He smiled and stretched out his hand.
"Meet Lorenzo Cavalieri" Sylvia said. "I presume you see the likeness. He is Gabriel's son." – "Son?" Ric frowned. "A pleasure to meet you, M. Marais. You seem a little puzzled?" Lorenzo's voice was dark and had a slight Italian accent. "I am a bit surprised I admit, I have never heard about you before. Still you must have lived for a rather long time, haven't you?" Lorenzo laughed. "About thirty-five years. But I haven't had contact with my father for more than half a year."- "Please have a seat, and I will ask for coffee" Sylvia said and called the maid. "I never heard of Lorenzo either until recently" she then said. "Gabriel had secrets from me, after all. He met Lorenzo's mother in Rome when he was young, but they never married. Instead Lorenzo was raised by the man she married later on. " – "My stepfather and my mother didn't tell me about who my real father was until I grew up. But when Gabriel became known they couldn't hide it. We were too alike. I didn't contact him until both my parents had died, though. And it was high time. We sent letters to each other but I never met him – he died."
Ric studied Lorenzo. He looked very much like Gabriel, perhaps with more temperament. "Gabriel didn't tell me until the last night" Sylvia said. "When he had his first heart attack he said to me 'My son Lorenzo will come – please take good care of him.'" – "And I came" Lorenzo said. "And since both his parents are dead and I have no children I plan to adopt him and let him inherit. Lorenzo da Silva, it sounds good, doesn't it?"
"You are going to adopt.. did Gabriel want that, do you think?" – "Yes, I believe so." She smiled and put her hand on Lorenzo's. "Don't you think it seems odd? You are only twenty years older. People will talk." – "Let them talk, I don't care. Lorenzo is going to be my son." The maid brought coffee and cakes and the conversation stopped.
"What do you do for a living, M. Cavalieri?" – "I am a car salesman, in fact. But soon I'm going to be a landowner." – "What about cultural interest, like your father?"- "Well, I don't write." – "Lorenzo likes music" Sylvia said. "He plays the guitar and a little piano." – "And you don't mind living isolated like this?" Lorenzo smiled again "One can always travel."
Ric stayed to dinner and for the night. Later he talked to Sylvia in private. "I expected to find you alone and sad but instead I find you in the best of companies. He seems to be of support to you. I could have stayed for a while, but now I see there is no need." – "Are you jealous? Please don't be. I can ask Lorenzo to get a girlfriend so that this arrangement doesn't seem too bad."- "The likeness is astonishing" Ric said. "Yes. But Gabriel looked a lot like his grandfather – and perhaps also like his father, I suppose."
The next day Ric left. "Give my regards to your wife and to all I know" Sylvia said. "Tell them not to grief for Gabriel. He had a good life." The two men said goodbye. "Perhaps we will see each other soon again" Ric said.
When Ric was gone Sylvia went to the music room. After a while Lorenzo joined her and closed the door. She put her arms around his neck and he lifted her and swirled her around. "That was the ordeal" she said. "If he buys it everybody else does." – "Do you believe so? You don't think he saw me through?" – "How could he? He knows nothing." She kissed him tenderly. "Gabriel" she whispered.
"Lorenzo" he said. "Always Lorenzo from now on - mother." – "Yes my son. But this is not what we first planned. I was going to look after the estate while you slept and you should wake up when I died." – "But I didn't want to. I have slept enough. I want to live with you as long as possible. I have had so much during this lifetime. And I met Annabelle again." – "And she appreciated to meet you?"
"You have no idea how good it feels to act young and alive again and not have to stay at the castle playing old." – "You are far too young for me" Sylvia said. "People will talk. I, an old fool, falls in love with my adopted son. In the future, please choose someone who you think I would have liked."- "You are so gloomy today" he said. "We have many years ahead of us. Do you want me to play something for you?" – Not now, later perhaps. Now I want to kiss Lorenzo."