I cleaned the apartment, erasing all of my fingerprints and then called the local authorities. After explaining our history, Sandy's history, the police had no problems believing it was a suicide. As for me, I said I had come to bring him home and to inform him of his wife's death. That after telling him I'd given him a couple days to process, and then found him dead upon my current visit. They let me leave shortly after. Naturally, I was not a suspect; he was, in all means of the term, my best friend after all. Sandy had few possessions, hardly anything worth keeping upon first glance. Nonetheless, I promised to return the next day to pick up his personal affects to take back to New York. I did not return. Instead, I boarded the next plane home.
Sam was understandably upset, and I did my best to console him. I found myself lying to Sam as I had to Sandy not even a week ago, and I hated it. But it had to be done, I'm afraid, to protect everyone involved, it had to be done. The French police eventually called me to inform me of what I already knew; that Sandy had overdosed on Quaaludes. And that, is how one gets away with murder.
I told Sam of the Sonenberg Educational Fund and he was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. He reminded me a lot of Sandy when we were young…
Kate had left me in charge of her estate and with Sam's help, we divided what needed to be sold or kept. I kept the Paris letter, but I had no desire to keep anything else of his that Kate had kept in their apartment, it was too painful. Without much surprise, she had left Sam all of her monetary assets and personal belongings. But she left me her apartment, which was a huge shock to say the least. Sam ended up buying the place from me; he insisted on paying, even though I'd have gladly given it to him. Not long after we had finished settling Kate's affairs did notice come from Sandy's lawyer. He had left everything to me. The shanty in Paris, his furniture and clothes, his car, everything.
So, two weeks after my first trip, I found myself on a plane back to Paris. Though, this time with Sam.
"This is it?" Sam asked, stepping into the small apartment.
I nodded, "His humble abode." I eyed Sam's look of doubt. "He was concerning himself with matters other than interior decorating, Sam." I reminded.
"If you see anything you'd like, please mark it. The rest I'll sell, or donate."
Sam nodded and began to wander around. I headed into his bedroom and opened the closet. Sandy had really chosen the simple life. He had minimal clothing, only 2 pairs of shoes; it was quite sad, really, having known the wardrobe he used to keep. Besides the clothes, there was a lone shoebox, unlabeled, sitting on the shelf. I pulled it down and sat on his bed. On top was a letter, the only word scrawled on the envelope: Anton. With shaking hands, I opened the letter and began to read.
My dearest Anton,
I am writing you because I have, or trust, no one else…it has always been you, Anton, for everything. The four months with you were the most liberating, fulfilling months of my life. I love Kate; in every way she's perfect for me and I was happy with her, truly happy. But there was always a part missing…I was never full so to speak. It took me a long time to realize it was you, Anton, that was missing. And now I'm here, in Paris of all places, and I am miserable; my life is in ruins, my career is over, I haven't held my wife or seen dear Sam in almost a year, and I haven't seen you. I yearn to hold you in my arms again, to feel your heart beating against mine, but I know I have given up that right a long time ago. Oh Anton, I don't know how much longer I can hold out here…I have failed; my clients, my family, myself, you. More than anything I want to come home, but how could I face everyone? This is my life and I must finish living it. I find myself reliving our nights together; the Monty Clift movies, the late nights in the park, waking up next to you every morning. You said that you didn't know where you'd be in the future. Did you ever think this is where we would be? I am tired, nay, exhausted, of this life, Anton. I want it to be 1962 again…perhaps I would be able to save myself and Burt. Oh Burt-Anton, his death was my fault. The guilt of his suicide lies with me and how I regret it! I never meant for him to-you have to believe me…I was shocked, and angry, and panicked. I didn't want him to…I've written a letter to Kate, coming clean about my feelings, but I cannot come clear this conscience without telling you-I never loved Burt Sarris; it was simple infatuation with him. I've only been in love twice; you and Kate. This letter is getting depressing, so I will draw it to a close. Know one thing, my dear Anton, I will make this right, by everyone.
I was, clearly shaken. I folded the letter back up and slipped it into my breast pocket, then turned my attention to the rest of the box. They were keepsakes, and my heart wrenched. Inside, the ticket stubs from the movies we went to together, pictures of our group-Kate, Sam, Burt, Sandy, and myself-one of Sandy, his mother, and myself, the book I had given him for our anniversary; he'd even saved the wrapping paper. It was all too much; the past hit me and I found myself sobbing. Sam rushed in.
"Anton? What's wrong?" he asked, placing a concerned hand on my shoulder.
"It's nothing, really. Just some old photos." I explained, wiping away the tears and collecting myself.
Sam nodded, "Are you sure?"
I nodded and patted his leg, "Quite. Thank you, Sam." I paused, "There are clothes in his closet if you'd like any of his suits."
Sam nodded, stood and moved to the closet.
I stood and looked to the nightstand; there was nothing interesting in his drawers, a pad and pen, a list of names, presumably contacts. Nothing of importance. I shredded the lists and placed them in the trashcan. "The furniture can be sold." I said, eying the table and bed. "Unless you'd like it." I added.
"I've put aside a few things from the living room if you don't mind-a record player and such." Sam replied.
"Fine. He was your father." I reminded.
Sam nodded, "True, but he was your best friend much longer."
I nodded slightly but didn't offer a reply.
Sam noticed my trepidation, despite my efforts to appear nonchalant. "Anton, are you sure you're okay? It's okay to miss him, or to be traumatized; you did find him." Sam asked, turning to face me.
"Yes, I did, didn't I?" I asked nervously.
"He was a good friend to you, once lover-it's okay to be a wreck." Sam smiled softly.
I nodded, "Thank you. And you're right; Sandy was my best friend. There is no shame in missing him." I sat back down on the bed, "Your stepfather was quite a character, Sam. It's a shame he lived the life he did."
Sam frowned, "What do you mean?"
"Well, he was surrounded by people who cared and loved him yet he was still lonely…collateral damage I suppose."
"From what?" Sam asked.
"Didn't you see it?" I asked surprised. "Of living a life designed by another." I then noticed Sam's fallen face. "My dear boy-he loved you and Kate so very much. Adored you. I'm not talking about his personal life-no I'm referring to his career. He did not want to be a money man. It was a family trade and he found himself somewhat trapped, and obligated, to follow in his father's footsteps. It was gut-wrenching, the day he joined the business; that night he wept. But, then, Sandy was always one to do what was expected, what's "right". Nevermind what he wanted," I added, a hint of bitterness and disgust slipping into my tone. "Enough of the past. We have some work to do." I stood and Sam followed suit, the topic closed.
Sam and I did not speak of Sandy's past again. He didn't press the topic and I saw no reason to offer any more information without him asking. We finished sorting through what little Sandy owned later that night. I kept only the box from his closet, Sam a few knick knacks. The rest I sold, along with the car and apartment. We returned to New York not four days later and life, it seemed, to pick right back up again. But, my life had drastically changed. I was missing three of the five group members, two of which were my best friends. Sam was all that was left and he was busy with his own life, with John, his once fling now steady boyfriend. It was goddamn miserable.
In the Paris letter-my Paris letter- Sandy had asked me if I could have ever predicted we'd be here…Could I have predicted Burt would kill himself after bankrupting Sandy's business sending Sandy on a wayward recovery mission? No. Could I have, did I, predict that we all would be alone or miserable? Yes.