The Last Will and Testament of Reginald von Elbin

by Nicholas Poe

They tore apart Master von Elbin’s furnishings with an animalistic ferocity. Less than two weeks since his passing and his two children, if the scoundrels could be called that, broke the legs of his favorite dining chair and cut through the window curtains with a knife. They seemed to enjoy the spectacle while the ghost of Master still hung over the house.

I suppose our situations shouldn’t be compared. They didn’t have to watch Master’s eyes widen in fear and his thin, pale fingers clutch at his throat. They didn’t see Master fall from his chair, his fist dragging the tablecloth with him. They didn’t watch helplessly as the light dimmed in Master’s eyes.

Thinking about it now sends chills along my spine. But they didn’t see any of that.

The house should belong to them, but it never would. Even when they lived here, they did not belong. Rage bubbled inside me as I watched them peruse Master’s belongings after they left him so alone for so long. How often did I hear Master longing for them, wanting nothing more than his children to be home and happy? But they forsook his love and his devotion. They proved unworthy of this house.

“Look at this,” one of them, Leslie, said as she held a crystal goblet. The finest drinkware, imported from Paris, and it cost my Master a small fortune. “How pretentious, right? Who needs to drink out of something like this?”

She held it above her head and the light from the chandelier spread twinkling golden rays around the dining room. One of them passed in front of my eyes, blinding me momentarily. When I looked again the other monster, Reggie – as he deigned to be called instead of his princely given name, Reginald – grabbed golden candlesticks from the top of the fireplace and tossed them over his shoulder with no regard for their delicacy.

“Kinda makes you want to smash it, right?” Leslie said and my blood ran cold. She wouldn’t dare.

Reggie chuckled. “Be my guest.”

“Naw, someone will buy it.” She added the goblet to the pile with the candlesticks and I longed to retrieve it, to polish the smudges and wrap it in the linen cloth Master kept on hand.

“Remember when we were kids and dad made us wear ties to the dinner table?” Leslie said. She paced across the center of the room, staring at the chandelier above her, the way the soft gold crinkled into leaves and snaked like vines around the spindly arms. Then her eyes brushed past me for only a second. If only she could see the glare I fixed on her.

“I remember the one time I didn’t and he threw a fork at me,” Reggie answered.

“So crazy.”

It was a spoon and you deserved it, I mumbled to myself. Technically, they were my masters now, if they ever accepted the position, and I had to honor that until they, inevitably, consigned me to the junk pile with the candlesticks.

“It’s just like the old man to die and leave all of this crap for us to deal with.” Reggie dug his fingers under an ornamental clock fixed to the wall, but it would not budge. Well, at least that was one thing I saved from this reign of desolation. “Like, he couldn’t have cleaned up a little? All of that money and he couldn’t hire a maid?”

Why would Master need a maid when he had me? Did I not care for him? Well, his children never saw that.

“That would be too easy. And somehow beneath him, I’m sure,” Leslie answered.

“What wasn’t beneath him?”

“The chandelier.”

Reggie chuckled again and left the clock alone. I never particularly cared for the clock, the maroon trimmings failed to accentuate the deep colors of the wood and detracted from the grandeur of the piece, but Master loved it. I would catch him in here staring at the clock for hours, almost as if he watched the actual time pass in every movement of the ebony hands, praying that one of the ticks would bring his children home.

“I know dad was a dick,” Leslie said. “But why haven’t I heard from you? It’s been, what, ten years?”

Reggie’s shoulders sunk and he spun a fruit bowl against his calloused palm. The sound – like a rough cloth on a glass window – caused my shoulder’s to clench. The bowl wobbled and tottered, but still he spun it. Put that down before it drops, I almost screamed at him.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“You hated dad, fine. I get that. But did you hate me, too?”

“What?” Reggie shook his head. “Of course not, L.”

“Because it seemed like you did.” She crossed her arms and leaned against the fireplace, watching him pace next to his father’s favorite spot at the table. “When you left, it was just me and him. All of his anger at you, all of his fear, all of that came down on me. I kept expecting you to care. To come back and, I don’t know, save me or something. To take me away, too. But no. You never came back and you never even bothered to call me.”

“I don’t know what to say.” Reggie ran a hand through his hair. “I couldn’t think about…any of this. This house, him, even you. I couldn’t do it. It’s killing me to even be in here right now.”

As it should. Neither of them deserved to be in this house. I remember watching Master in a rage after Reggie left and he shattered an entire set of 18th century glasses – threw them straight through the stained glass of an expertly painted window. I remember his fear every day that Leslie would follow her brother out and, two years later, when she did, that almost killed him. Master deserved better.

For years, I prayed for the children’s return. Despite my hatred, I longed to see my Master smile again. To see them together, happy and at peace, that was all that Master ever wanted. Why couldn’t they see how much he cared for them? How he wanted nothing but the best for them? Since they were children, he pushed them and forced them to be the best they could be. Out of love. Out of admiration. Out of an intimate knowledge of how great they could be if they only cared a little. And they repaid him by breaking his heart. For shame.

“Uh oh,” Leslie said with her head inside of Master’s wine cabinet. “Look what I got.”

She held a bottle of wine, one of the nicest in the collection, by its neck and lofted it over her head. Reggie turned away from the window and smiled.

“Now we’re talking,” he said.

Together, they sat at the table, talking and joking about their childhood and about Master as the bottle passed back and forth.

“Remember that time you painted on the wall in the study?” Leslie asked. “That large…what was it? A T-rex?”

“It was a dragon. A green one that breathed fire.” Reggie smiled as he gazed out the window. “Ironically, seeing it turned dad into a fire-breathing dragon.”

“God, I’ve never seen him so mad.”

“Oh yeah? What about that time you knocked over the vase in the entryway?” Reggie asked.

Leslie’s face flushed and she sank back in her chair. “Oh no, I had forgotten about that.”

Reggie laughed with his head thrown back. He grabbed the wine and drank straight from the bottle. Like a heathen.

That might have been the best day of my life,” Reggie said. “Dad was mad at you for once.”

“What do you mean? He was always mad at me!”

“Oh, please.” Reggie took another drink and waved his hand at her. “Miss perfect grades and piano prodigy. Miss never did anything wrong. Meanwhile, I walked with a limp because I got a few C’s on every report card.”

“I just…I wanted to make him happy,” Leslie said. “I also wanted to make you proud.”

A splotch of red blossomed on her cheek and she took the wine bottle back.

“Me?”

“I thought you were so brave and so cool. The way you stood up to him like I never could.” She shook her head and the wine sloshed inside the bottle. Half empty now. They wasted Master’s favorite bottle.

“I only stood up to him because I was so jealous of how much he loved you,” Reggie muttered to the table. “He never cared about me like that. The way his eyes lit up when he watched you play the piano or sing or whatever else you were perfect at.”

“Are you kidding?” Leslie leaned forward. “I had to do that to get him to care about me. You didn’t have to do anything and he adored you! You should have seen how he acted after you left. Of course, he wouldn’t let me see, but he cried in his office for about a week.”

“Really?” Wrinkles in Reggie’s face lessened as his eyes brightened. “I…I guess I never knew that.”

“Oh yeah, he loved you so much, even despite all the crap you pulled. I could never live up to that.”

He loved you both, you monsters! I wanted desperately to shout at them as they sat at his table, drinking his wine. After all they did to him, after how they hurt him, and they had the audacity to complain! To flaunt his gifts and spurn his care. To come back here only after he died.

But when I looked at them, I could only see them as children. Reggie with his indestructible cowlick and unceasing reservoir of energy. How many times did I watch him bounce through this room, sprinting in circles around his father’s legs? The child only ever stopped to see if his father was watching. And he always was.

And Leslie, with her ponytail so blonde it was almost white. She sat in this room, reading books so intently by the fire that she practically memorized every one. Her eyes were so bright I thought they could see into my very soul.

How I loved them. How we both did. And they broke our hearts when they left.

But they came back and they were here. I smiled. I couldn’t help it.

Leslie stood up and started to pace the room, the bottle sat forgotten in the middle of the table.

She stopped, inches from my face. Those eyes were the same. Piercing. Unafraid. Still, they could see into my very essence.

“Hey, remember this thing?” she called to Reggie who glanced over his shoulder.

“Oh yeah. What did he call her? Martha?”

“Margaret.”

Mother Margaret, I thought. I helped build this house when your father was not even hoped for. Years I have watched as generation after generation of von Elbins grew in these rooms. Never sleeping, never tiring, only watching and helping as I could.

“I always kind of hated it,” Reggie said. “I thought her face looked weird. Like someone pinched it.”

“I don’t know,” Leslie said. “I never noticed how kind her eyes were.”

“Yeah, well. I didn’t spend too much time looking at old paintings if I’m being honest. There’s like a million of them in here.”

“True. Dad always really loved this one for some reason, though. Maybe it reminded him of someone,” Leslie said.

A smile spread across Reggie’s face as he glanced from me to the window. That same look he always had before ruining another one of Master’s possessions.

“How about we piss him off one last time?” he asked.

“Oh?” Leslie asked.

Reggie dug his fingers under my frame, I could practically smell his breath in my face, and carried me to the window. With one hand, he pushed it open and the gentle breeze rushed through the room. For a split second I could see his face. That old joy lived in his eyes, subdued but waiting. He grunted and heaved me out the window. As I fell the two stories to the earth, I could hear them laughing together in the dining room. My old room.

They were together. And they were happy. Wasn’t that what Master always wanted? 




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